Takeover at Liverpool fuels call for cash curbs

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The Independent Football

The impending takeover of Liverpool by one of the richest men in the world will add weight to calls for Europe-wide restrictions on spending on transfers and wages by clubs.

Lawyers and accountants working for Dubai International Capital (DIC) - the firm owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the billionaire ruler of the emirate of Dubai - began looking at Liverpool's accounts yesterday in the build-up to making an offer for the club. If, as seems certain, the takeover goes through, Liverpool could have access to the sort of money for new players and wages that would dwarf the sums spent by the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich.

Many in European football fear such takeovers will widen the gulf between the super-rich and the rest, and Uefa and the European Commission are considering new rules that would tie spending to a proportion of a club's revenue.

The Uefa communications director, William Gaillard, said: "There is no doubt the immediate threat in the short term is a huge increase in the gap between the haves and the have nots, and in the long term lead to inflation in wages and transfer fees and a concentration of power that could destroy the game.

"That is why Uefa are in favour of the Independent Football Review's proposals where a club is limited to spending a proportion of its revenue. The more super-rich football club owners there are, the greater the pressure there will be for such rules.

"Having said that, we do not have a position on foreign ownership of clubs within a country - to us the nationality of the owner is irrelevant - and we prefer a model such as Spain where club ownership is spread widely among the fans."

The proposal is a key part of the Independent Football Review which is being used as the basis of a new European Commission white paper. The Review says: "The aim is not to place an upper limit on what players can earn but simply to prevent those with the deepest pockets buying all the best players and therefore dominating competition, contrary to the interests of the sport and the public."

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, said that he has no problems with the increasing number of foreign owners of Premier League clubs.

"As long as the clubs are properly licensed and run there is no problem with foreign ownership," he said. "This does highlight the importance of the European white paper which will cover the whole question of ensuring there is good governance of clubs."

The former Liverpool winger John Barnes does not expect the world's best players to arrive at Anfield immediately if a takeover leads to increased transfer funds.

"The answer is not just money because so many people have spent money before and not been successful, you have to get the right players and the right manager. That's the most important thing," said Barnes, who played for Liverpool when they last won the title in 1990. "No matter what you say about Jose Mourinho, there are managers before who have spent - maybe not as much - and not been as successful because he is a very good manager.

"While it is very positive, the important thing is not to assume now that because this has happened Liverpool are going to win the League, because it won't just happen.

"As much as Liverpool will have money to spend, so do Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. You ask yourself if players will go to Liverpool ahead of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal? That is debatable, so I look at it as a long-term improvement.

"If you have £200m to spend and Ronaldinho becomes available, he's going to go to Chelsea ahead of Liverpool, unfortunately."