Majority of Premier League Teams in Favor of Fiscal Controls

As many as 17 Premier League teams are in favor of introducing financial control measures in an effort to prevent soccer’s richest league from operating with losses, West Ham co-owner David Gold said in an interview.

Representatives of the English top division’s 20 teams met today in London to discuss the possibility of adding rules requiring fiscal restraint. A briefing document outlining a range of potential proposals, including limits to wage bill raises or a break-even clause, was handed out.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has already created so-called Financial Fair Play regulations that aim to punish clubs that spend beyond their means from 2014. English soccer’s second-tier Championship division has also introduced fiscal controls. At least 14 member teams must agree to proposals before they can be brought in by the Premier League.

“I think that there are 14 clubs that are ready for change,” Gold said in an interview after the meeting at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London. “I think there are more. I think there are as many as 17 clubs.”

English soccer’s elite teams have record revenue, yet much of it is spent on players’ salaries. Twelve Premier League teams operated at a loss, according to the most recent filings.

Teams including Chelsea and Manchester City have been fuelled to success on the back of lavish spending by billionaire owners. Months after City announced a record loss of $311 million for the year ended May 31, 2011, Sergio Aguero, a striker purchased for 38 million pounds, scored an injury time winner that delivered the team its first league title since 1968.

`Best Interest'

“There’ll be a few who this won’t suit but you’ve got to say what’s in the best interest of the league as a whole,” said Gold, who with business partner David Sullivan, took over West Ham in January 2010 after its former Icelandic owner went bankrupt. “Some will vote against what we’re trying to achieve, but the vast majority supports some form of control that’s in the best interests of not just the football clubs but the family which includes the fans.”

The group will meet again to discuss the issue at the end of the month. Before that, two groups each with executives from 10 clubs will discuss the options in more detail.

The Premier League previously strengthened financial rules in 2010 following the bankruptcy of Portsmouth. They include provisions like proof that tax liabilities have been paid, debts to rivals teams are accounted for and proof owners have the wealth to run teams.

Club Backing

Clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool are in favor of rules similar to UEFA’s.

Manchester United Chief Executive Officer David Gill said in an interview last week that all Premier League teams should be able to break even in light of a record 3 billion-pound domestic television rights contract announced in June.

“If you look at it, we’ve got financial regulations in the league below us, the Championship, and the competition above us, the Champions League, so we need to do it,” Gill said. “The Premier League being the best league in the world, the most commercially effective league in the world, I think there’s a real opportunity to introduce some sensible rules that effectively improve and enhance the long term or medium term financial stability.”

Opponents of financial controls in the Premier League, which include Fulham, argue that the regulations would put English teams at a disadvantage to those playing in rival leagues.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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