Carry on spending but do not get into debt, clubs told

A senior Uefa official has said new financial regulations under discussions are not intended to stop the trend of wealthy investors buying Europe's biggest teams.

DUBAI // A senior Uefa official yesterday said new financial regulations which restrict clubs from spending more than their annual incomes are not intended to stop the trend of wealthy investors buying Europe's biggest teams. Instead, said Uefa's head of club licensing Andrea Traverso during a debate in Dubai yesterday, the changes were devised to make sure clubs are not given quick success through rapid investment before suffering when the money runs out or the new owner walks away.

He also stated that the regulations, when introduced by 2012-13, will help smaller teams by reducing inflation within the sport. Asked whether the priority was to stop takeovers such as Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's of English Premier League side Manchester City, Traverso - who was speaking at the Fourth Dubai International Sports Conference - insisted that making football clubs debt free was the only goal.

"Investors will not be allowed to buy success unless a sustainable strategy is in place which demonstrates that any significant one-off investment, which usually occurs following a takeover, will be recuperated by future earnings," said Traverso. "We would only like to limit the external interventions which create a type of football arms race. They not only drive inflation but increase salaries and transfer fees which in turn affect smaller clubs. It distorts the system and we would like to regulate it."

In an effort to eradicate the mounting debts of clubs within its 53 national association members, Uefa are exploring "Financial Fair Play" criteria to monitor spending. With clubs in Europe's top divisions reporting total debts of ?5.5billion (Dh28.9bn) in 2008, even bigger losses are expected when 2009 financial reports are published in the coming months. "The new rules will have a big impact on clubs and a big effect on certain clubs' investors," he said.

Uefa, however, recognise that new owners must be given the chance to prove that they have the long-term interests of football at heart. "We acknowledge that when investors enter clubs they spend heavily at first with the long-term objective of recouping funds or trophies in the future," said Traverso. "That is why we are pursuing multi-year assessments."