Time is ticking for clubs to get their financial affairs in order
By Phil Dawkes & Ian Dennis
Arsenal have been held up as a shining example by Uefa as European football's governing body prepares to implement tough new financial restrictions.
From the 2011-12 season, clubs must break even over a rolling three-year period or risk a possible ban from Uefa European competitions.
Uefa compared Arsenal's approach to that of clubs with super-rich owners.
"What model waits for a knight rider on a horse and then rides away?" said Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger's meticulous and sensible approach to spending has helped the north Londoners strengthen their finances over the last 10 years, as some of their rivals' own position has weakened.
Something is awry in European club football and when you step on the accelerator something tends to go wrong. We need to step on the brakes and introduce rationale
European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Having moved to the Emirates Stadium in 2006, Arsenal now turn over more than £300m a year (including revenue from property sales) and made a pre-tax profit of £35m in 2009.
"Ten years ago Arsenal reported less income than Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle," Infantino added. "Now it is more than those clubs and in 2009 more than double Newcastle's.
"This shows what is possible with good management and careful investment."
In recent years, the Premier League has seen an influx of wealthy foreign businessmen acquiring control of clubs and embarking on lavish spending on players.
This has left some at risk of failing to adhere to Uefa's impending restrictions.
City, who have embarked on an unprecedented spending in the wake of the 2009 takeover of the club by billionaire Arab tycoon Sheikh Mansour, have already sent club officials for talks with European football's governing body to discuss how they can comply with new regulations.
Uefa's head of licensing Andrea Traverso stated: "We are in talks with the club, they are aware of the rules and they probably have a strategy to raise their income."
Infantino was part of Uefa's presentation of the new guidelines
Uefa president Michel Platini also does not foresee a problem with City after revealing that he had been given personal assurances by the club.
"Last year in Abu Dhabi, I met up with the owner of Manchester City and he promised they would live with the rules and regulations," said the Frenchman.
City manager Roberto Mancini said on Tuesday that the £27m-signing of Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko from German side Wolfsburg was the end of his spending for the time being.
"This is my ideal squad at the moment. We don't need to buy another six or seven players next summer. Maybe two or three," said Mancini.
"We are building a great team at the moment. Every year we want to improve but with another two or three players next season, no more."
There will be some leeway for big-spending clubs as they look to reduce their outlay.
During the first two seasons that the rules are in force, clubs will be allowed to overspend by a total of £37m, a sum that will be reduced on a sliding scale for each three-year reporting period that follows.
In addition, clubs will be permitted an unlimited investment in stadium infrastructure and youth academies.
Under the new rules, Uefa would place clubs at risk of overspending in a special category and closely monitor them.
As it stands, Chelsea and both Manchester clubs would be placed in this bracket, although the Red Devils are insistent they would pass the financial fair play rules now.
Uefa has previously voiced its specific concern about the financial state of Premier League clubs, some of which - like Manchester United or Liverpool (prior to their takeover in October last year) - have taken on large levels of debt.
In addition, clubs continue to live beyond their means and risk falling into serious financial difficulty, just as Leeds did within the last decade and more recently Portsmouth, who in February 2010 became the first Premier League club to go into administration.
However, Platini insisted that the new rules are not designed to target Premier League clubs in order to curb their success in the Champions League, in which an English club reached the final for five straight years prior to the 2009-10 campaign.
"I want to be proud to have been pro-active and not [to have] ignored a problem everyone was aware of but no one wished to take on," he said.
Manchester City spent £27m to buy Edin Dzeko last week
Platini also insisted that any clubs who break the rules will have to "face the music".
"There will be no witch hunt," he continued. "If a club does not fall in line and does not apply the same rules as everybody else, they would have to live with the consequences."
Uefa's latest figures illustrate that clubs across Europe have yet to curb their financial outlay in order to fall in line with the impending restrictions.
Its review showed that more than half of 655 clubs reported a loss in 2009 and that the combined deficit across Europe's 53 football nations was £1bn.
Spending on player wages is up almost 10%, with clubs spending 64% of their income on these and other staff expenses.
European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and his 197 members are fully behind Uefa's new proposals.
But the German warned that clubs who fall foul of the rules and are subsequently barred from entry to the Champions League face "complete meltdown".
With 73 European clubs spending more than 100% of their revenue on wages, Rummenigge said: "[Uefa] has embarked on the right path".
But he added: "Something is awry in European club football and when you step on the accelerator something tends to go wrong. We need to step on the brakes and introduce rationale."
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