Chelsea to back financial fair play deal

The Roman Abramovich-owned club had been viewed as a hardline opponent of the plans

Chelsea are set to back both a wage increase cap and a compromise financial fair play deal at tomorrow's showdown meeting of all 20 Premier League chairmen, it can be disclosed.

The Roman Abramovich-owned club had been viewed as a hardline opponent of financial fair play (FFP), but Press Association Sport understands Chelsea will agree to a system that obliges clubs to break even but allows owners to cover some losses.

The thawing of the Stamford Bridge club's position should now ensure that both spending control systems are agreed tomorrow.

Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool will still argue that wealthy owners should not be allowed to underwrite any losses, but in order to push FFP through will have to settle for a compromise, where up to £105million over three years can be covered.

Opponents of FFP argue that the system maintains the status quo and favours the biggest clubs with large stadia and high commercial income.

Four clubs - Manchester City, Fulham, West Brom and Aston Villa - are still expected to vote against it.

Chelsea's backing of a compromise, however, should enable the necessary 14 out of the 20 votes to be reached.

The wage increase cap may also be watered down - initially Sunderland owner Ellis Short had suggested a maximum 10 per cent increase allowed for player wages.

It now looks likely that the cap will only affect those clubs whose total bill is higher than £52m so that promoted sides are not prevented from improving their squads.

Furthermore, spending money earned from clubs' individual sponsorship deals on wages will not be restricted. That can be significant - in Manchester United's case commercial income totalled £117.6m last year and their wage bill £160m.

But some form of wage increase cap will satisfy club owners, who are fearful of the bulk of the income from next season's bumper new television rights deals - expected to be worth £25m-£30m per club - going straight into the pockets of the players and agents.

The Premier League's expected FFP system would be less restrictive than UEFA's, which is being brought in from next season and will oblige clubs to break even or face possible exclusion from European competition.

Under UEFA's system, for the first three years owners will be permitted to cover annual losses of up to £12million via equity but that will then be phased out.

Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool - styled as the 'gang of four' after they sent a joint letter to the last shareholders meeting calling for owners not be allowed to cover any losses - argue that tough FFP measures will maintain the Premier League's competitiveness and its attraction to a global TV audience, rather than risk a situation developing such as in Spain, where only two clubs dominate the football landscape.

PA

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