Sparta's debts raise doubts for future

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Sparta Prague, the Czech league champions, are in no danger of going bankrupt despite their current financial crisis, General Motors, Sparta's main sponsor, said yesterday. The 103-year-old club, who were champions of the former Czechoslovakia 19 times and have won both championships of the new Republic, built up debts to finance the construction of their 22,000 all-seat Letna ground.

However, Andrej Barcak, the General Motors regional director for central and eastern Europe, said that speculation about bankruptcy, sparked by comments from the club's main creditor, Investicni a Postovni Banka, was premature.

"Either the banks will make a deal or an interested partner will make a deal - there are indications of this from Sparta and Investicni Banka." Barcak said. "The value of the stadium, plus assets they have in terms of players, etc, are far higher than their debts. Their problem is one of cash flow." Sparta officials were unavailable for comment.

Apart from debts to the local telephone company, which recently cut all Sparta's lines, the club's main financial headache is its 300m Czech crowns (pounds 7.3m) loan from Investicni Banka to build its new stadium.

Last week the bank indicated that bankruptcy was a possibility but said it did not want to start the process.