Gartside: Bolton may have to sell top names
The Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside has suggested that the Premier League wants to impose limits on its clubs' losses within two seasons and admitted that manager Owen Coyle may be forced to sell Gary Cahill and Johan Elmander after his own side's current sixth position has come at the cost of losses that have doubled to £35.4m.
With Wanderers' debt rising from £64m to £93m, Gartside said England defender Cahill, who has been the subject of interest from Arsenal and Manchester United, may be sold in the January transfer window if they receive an offer in excess of £15m.
Gartside claimed that Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's chief executive officer, is also pushing for tougher rules on club finances, in line with the new Uefa financial fair play (FFP) regime which will see teams banned from European competitions if they can't bring down costs towards break-even over a three-year period. "Richard's keener than anybody," Gartside said. "I think he's concerned as much as anybody about the financial state. We keep upping the income and we keep losing more money. It's ridiculous."
The Premier League declined to comment on Gartside's observations yesterday, though it is understood that the league is currently consulting with individual clubs about financial controls. The issue is likely to be discussed at the league's AGM in June.
Gartside told Bloomberg that wage restraints were desperately needed: "Owners should be allowed to invest in equity. So if you, as an owner, want to buy a striker for £10m that shouldn't be a problem. But what you then can't do is pay him extortionate wages that take you out of the break-even situation. We are carrying too many on the wage bill."
Bolton have nine players out of contract this summer, including some of the heavy earners, and Gartside is clearly unsure whether to offer all of them new contracts. The £40,000-a-week Elmander has started to flourish this season after a difficult start following his signing two years ago for £8.2m – a club record. "He's out of contract at the end of this season and if someone knocks on the door in January then that's obviously a consideration. If a Champions League team [bids for Cahill] in January that's the best time to sell because those teams will pay the money."
Bolton's financial position is not as precarious as Portsmouth's when they went into administration owing over £120m, because the Wanderers' owner, Eddie Davies, is owed the bulk of the debt, but the club wants to reduce its dependence on him.
Liverpool's new owners New England Sports Ventures said last month that they would have been less interested in the £300m acquisition without the incoming FFP regulations to level the playing field. Principal owner John W Henry dismissed suggestions that European clubs might be able to dodge the new regulations. "The clubs have to comply," he said. Manchester City's task of bringing down the £121m losses they reported in October to comply with FFP is the most significant task ahead of them.
Gartside said that the Premier League wage levels were also damaging clubs' attempts to find new investors. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, is among those who have said the absence of a wage cap has made investment in English football unattractive. "I've been chairman for 12 years and on the board for 21. We've never had an approach from anyone to buy it in all that time," Gartside said.
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