FA and Premier League clash over finances

October 7, 2008

The Football Association and Premier League have clashed over the financial well-being of English football as fresh evidence emerged of the game's growing debt.

Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge, FA chairman Lord Triesman and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore voiced opposing views on the dangers of foreign ownership - one of the sport's most contentious issues - and whether the rules needed tightening up.

Revealing English clubs currently owe an estimated £3billion, Lord Triesman said this posed a "terrible danger'' in the current global climate.

"Transparency lies in an unmarked grave,'' Lord Triesman said.

"We now have a position where it is very hard to track things. It is not transparent enough and we don't know if we are able to track it, if the debt is held by people who are financially secure or not.

"More and more clubs are in trouble, with a number of owners leaving abruptly.''

Reacting to FIFA president Sepp Blatter's outburst that buying a football club was now just as easy as buying a replica shirt, Triesman said he had a point.

"It is certainly true that fans are apprehensive if their club is touted around in the market place. You can't have a complete disregard for people's passion for their club.''

Without mentioning any club by name Triesman said the Premier League's fit and proper persons test needed an urgent review.

"If there is a prima facie case of someone's human rights record being regarded internationally as being very serious, it's reasonable to question whether that person should be running a football club,'' he said.

"Nobody has real confidence in what they cannot see. The fit and proper persons test does not do the job sufficiently robustly.

"A review is now inevitable because football clubs are not mere commodities. They are the abiding passion of their supporters. We forget that at our peril.''

Speaking later at the same conference, and with Triesman sitting a few feet away, Scudamore defended the clubs' financial affairs as he hit back at the FA.

"The FA themselves know about all these things because they are one of the most indebted organisations in the world,'' Scudamore said. "Our clubs are all heavily regulated but they've also got directors and owners who will assess the level of risk of their overall debt.

"This is at the top of clubs' agendas and I think they are managing it responsibly.''

On the Premier League's approach to individual ownership of clubs he added: "We are a good example of a self-regulatory progressive organisation. The fit and proper person test may perhaps not have the correct name but it is not inadequate.

"There are people who are not owners of our clubs precisely because of the test.''

As well as tackling debt in his keynote speech on the first day of the two-day conference, Triesman also called on Tottenham to issue life bans to fans who verbally abused Sol Campbell at Portsmouth just over a week ago.

He also plans to meet Blatter to talk about the racist chants directed at Emile Heskey during England's 4-1 victory in Croatia last month.

"I abhor the treatment of Sol Campbell by supporters of a club that I have loved and supported all my life,'' he said.

"I hope the individuals will be identified and, if appropriate, banned from Tottenham's ground.''

Triesman revealed he would be speaking with Blatter about the £15,000 fine meted out to Croatia after the World Cup qualifier in Zagreb which England won 4-1.

"I intend to seek an early meeting with Sepp Blatter to make sure the response to instances of racist abuse are dealt with fully and effectively,'' he added.

"FIFA imposes its own fines and takes its own decisions but we'd meet our obligations to players who are either black or from a different religious group if we make sure, at international level, we all understand the seriousness of racism to the same extent.

"It will be helpful for me to have a discussion about the way FIFA deals with racism.''