PtG Article 30.03.2012

Financial Fair Play in the Premier League?

In a session on Financial Management of Clubs at the Soccerex conference in Manchester, UK, Trevor Birch, a former chief executive of five top English clubs, argued that UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules would create a more level playing field in the Premier League. Steve Menary reports from the conference.

The Premier League could voluntarily embrace UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations as a whole competition rather than simply those clubs that qualify for European competition, suggested England’s foremost football insolvency expert.

The bottom two English leagues, League One and Two, have voluntary salary caps, while the second tier, the Championship, votes in a few weeks on whether to introduce FFP rules for its clubs.

Asked if the Premier League would follow suit, Trevor Birch, who was speaking on a panel entitled the Financial Management of Clubs at the Soccerex conference in Manchester, said:

“Yes, I could see it happening. Many clubs in the Premier League would like to see it as it would create a more level playing field.”

A former chief executive of five top English clubs including Everton and Leeds, Birch argued that the benefactor model of ownership used by major English clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City was unsustainable. He added that all the work done by clubs off the pitch to raise revenue and meet FFP rules could be wiped out by poorly negotiated deals for players.

“Certain deals can be done off the pitch [to improve revenue] but if you compare that to the cost of one mistake of signing the wrong player you can wipe that out and easily lose £10 million on a player,” said Birch.

“Now we have a slightly unsustainable model with two clubs at the top of the Premier League with a benefactor model and that has to be unsustainable.”

Birch is the man who put the first Premier League club into administration and he is still trying to find a buyer for Portsmouth, who are now in the Championship. He was sharing a panel with Phillip Beard, the chief executive of Premier League side Queen’s Park Rangers, who warned that extending the length and size of parachute payments to clubs relegated from the world’s richest league into the Championship was creating a two tier Premier League.