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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Cash crisis envelops British football
Financial problems are becoming all too apparent for professional football clubs
The financial position is worsening for football
More than 90% of English football clubs have serious financial problems, a leading analyst has told a BBC Sport Online investigation.

Football analyst John Williams is just one of many experts who believe the British game is being crippled by the perilous state of its finances.

"Seven or eight Premiership clubs are probably safe but after that there are very few clubs who look sensible in the way they're structured financially," Williams told BBC Sport Online.

"There are very few clubs who spend the right proportion of their income on wages - they all to spend too much and they have got to rein that in."

The 'safe' clubs
Arsenal
Blackburn
Liverpool
Manchester United
Middlesbrough
Newcastle United
Tottenham Hotspur

In recent months, a string of clubs have been rocked by serious financial problems, with Leicester City the latest to face administration.

Barnsley have eight weeks to find a buyer while Coventry have debts estimated at 60m.

According to Williams, of the 72 clubs outside the Premiership there is barely a single one unaffacted by the crisis.

When First Division chairmen and chief executives were asked at a recent meeting how many of them could guarantee fulfilling fixtures this season, only three raised their hands - Wolves, Portsmouth and Norwich.

The Football League admit the crisis is "the biggest to ever hit football", but refused to be drawn on how many clubs might also be in danger.

"It's difficult to say that 90% of clubs have financial problems because 'financial problems' is a fairly loose description," said John Nagle, a spokesman for the League.

"You have Fulham for example who are in debt but look at their benefactor Mohamed Al Fayed. Wigan, likewise, have a wealthy backer in Dave Whelan.

Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn
Hearn says football's future is gloomy

"That's not to downplay the problem. This is one of the biggest crises to ever hit football."

The "crisis" could yet rip through the heart of clubs across the country, according to Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn.

Hearn said recently: "I would not be surprised to see half of the First Division clubs in administration by Christmas."

Williams, director of the football research unit at Leicester University, believes top-flight clubs like Fulham and Southampton could face similar problems should they be relegated in the future.

"I don't see this going away. The cases of Leicester and Coventry may well make people look much harder at their finances," he said.

"Half of the current Premiership clubs might well be in the same boat as a Leicester or a Coventry in the near future."

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Football analyst John Williams
"We have to look at the structure of the league"

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