Are Bonanza days over?
Premier League clubs agreed a new set of financial rules yesterday, but by a very tight margin with the required two-thirds majority only just being obtained. Thirteen clubs voted in favour and Reading abstained. Six clubs voted against, Swansea City and Southampton joining the expected quartet of Aston Villa, Fulham, Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion. If Chelsea had not changed their position from opposition to support, the measures would have failed.
The reforms will make it very difficult for someone to repeat the scenarios seen at Chelsea and Manchester City where huge sums of money were pumped into clubs taken over by expatriate owners. But, in a sense, that means that the established top clubs are pulling up the ladder behind them.
Clubs with annual wage costs of more than £52m a year will be limited to £4m a year increases sourced from Premier League central payments. That qualification is important, as it means that sponsorship income can be used to pay player wages, which will help clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City. It increases the importance of securing lucrative sponsorship deals. Match day income and merchandising revenues can also be spent on wages, so the rule is much less draconian than it looks.
The £52m cap increases to £56m in 2014-15 and £60m in 2015-16. It is thought that seven clubs are currently below the threshold. Clubs that breach any of the rules will face points deductions, clearly a more effective sanction than fines.
The deficit rule limits clubs to £105m over the next three seasons. If the rule were already in place, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City would be in breach of it. Financing plans will have to be revealed three years in advance, instead of just one year as at present.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said the rules were not 'financial fair play' as Uefa envisaged it, but restrictions that suited English football and its heritage of benefactor owners.