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Jul 18, 2012

Coates calls for Financial Fair Play

Premier League clubs are set to discuss a proposed initiative that may punish those members who fail to prove self-sustainable. The measure is designed to make clubs self-sustainable, and to ensure that the latest TV bonanza - the £3 billion-plus landed from summer 2013 - is not frittered away.

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates has told ESPN that one of the biggest changes in Premier League history is needed to ensure that the cautionary tale of Glasgow Rangers is not repeated. He supports the plan, set to be discussed in September at a meeting of all 20 clubs.

"No one is immune," was the message from Coates. He hopes it will be a rallying call for safe guards to be placed collectively on Premier League clubs to protect their viability and save them from financial meltdown.

The richest league in the world is largely inhabited by clubs making losses, and the fear is that with billions more coming into the game, that cash will flow straight out in players' wages and ever-increasing demands from their agents.

More than a decade ago, Sir Alan Sugar called it the 'prune juice' effect, where what goes in one end comes out the other, but so far only the Football League have implemented rules governing the finances of clubs. Those failing to live within their means risk having a transfer embargo, and heavy fines.

Whether the Premier League clubs will want to observe such disciplinary safeguards remains to be seen. How do they curtail players now regularly demanding £1 million a month?

"It is very important that the clubs act, and we have a year to sort out something before a whole new tranche of more money comes flooding into the game via the new TV deals," Coates told ESPN. "We have to ensure that it doesn't flood in, and then flood straight back out in players' wages and agents' fees. We need to ensure that the only beneficiaries of the big increases in income are not the players and their agents as they have been in the past."

"The Premier League is the most commercial by some distance in the world yet most clubs don't do very well with their finances. There is a huge disparity between those at the very top in English football and the rest of us.

"The Football League have implemented new rules and we have to take a close look at what we need to do in the Premier league. There is a Financial Fair Play rule in Europe but that only governs about eight of our clubs, so we need a sensible dialogue with all of our clubs to find the way forward.

"New money is coming in, but we can no longer let it go out in the same old way. Instead, it needs to be used for the game's infrastructure, getting rid of the debt, ensuring all clubs are solvent, and that all clubs are run well on sound financial footings.

Coates used the example of the Premier League's biggest clubs to illustrate his point.

"Manchester United are our most successful commercial club and the right model in world football, which is great credit to them, similarly Arsenal are a self-functioning club," he said.

"But no matter how well Manchester United might be doing, they still have to pay huge amounts in interests on their loans, and they don't want to see all the extra money the Premier League is earning blown away on players' wages, as they have to abide by UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules now.

"Manchester United have supported the smaller clubs, so too have Arsenal, on these sorts of issues, and when we all get together at the shareholders meeting in September, I would hope the dialogue can begin to find some common ground that all the clubs can eventually buy into.

"The goal is simple - that all clubs in the Premier League are self-sustainable. I am sure we are all up to meeting that challenge."

Should such measures be introduced then English football's top division's clubs could face a change as significant as any since the introduction of the Premier League itself.

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