European football clubs face spending curbs

UEFA rules are aimed at ending exorbitant outlays for players.

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Just like the long ball technique and baggy shorts that reached to the knees, the days of lavish spending in football may be numbered. Europe's top football clubs were braced yesterday for new regulations from UEFA, the governing body of European football. The rules, already agreed on in principle last September, are set to be introduced in the 2012-2013 season. They would limit the amount of money that clubs could borrow and receive in loans from their owners.

Any club that breached the rules would face exclusion from European competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, the world's richest club football competition. About half of Europe's leading clubs are losing money, while 20 per cent run large deficits. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, the Champions League winners, would struggle under these terms. The proposals would be likely to affect up to three quarters of English Premier League (EPL) clubs, including Chelsea, the League champions and FA Cup holders, Aston Villa and Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Minister of Presidential Affairs.

Michel Platini, the president of the UEFA, has warned of the "danger to football" caused by debt, overspending and "rampant commercialism". He is quoted as saying that overspending is "a question of survival for our sport". Clubs would have three years to break even under the "financial fair play" plan. The rules would not affect domestic leagues. An EPL spokesman told The Guardian most of the new rules are "common sense", but warned: "If the regulations are introduced as reported, we envisage a difficult period of adjustment for our member clubs who play, or aspire to play, in European competitions."

UEFA said this week there would be exceptions for losses where a club was building a stadium or investing in a youth academy. "We're not trying to level the playing field," said a UEFA spokesman. "We want to make sure that the middle-ranked clubs don't go spending millions which they don't have as they try to compete with the big clubs. The underlying principle is that clubs cannot repeatedly spend more than their generated revenues."

* with Reuters