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New 'financial fair play' rules for Spain

The Spanish government and the Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) have agreed new 'financial fair play' rules for Spanish football, which they say mean that from next season no team will be permitted to sign a new player unless they have their accounts in order.

Under the new regulations, clubs will have to submit accounts to the LFP for approval each year, before being allowed to register new players.

LFP president Jose Luis Astiazaran claims the new binding rules are similar to UEFA's much-trumpeted Financial Fair Play initiative, and are aimed at ensuring all Spanish clubs live within their means.

"The 'Control' agreed is close to UEFA's financial fair play," Astiazaran told El Confidencial. "Sustainability for the teams is the aim. The budget will be limited by some historical variables. There is a limit to the total cost of the squad. From next season, if you go over this limit, you cannot sign players."

Spanish sports minister Miguel Cardenal said the agreement marked a turning point in Spanish football, and past flouting of financial sense would no longer be tolerated.

"There is a before and after in Spanish football starting from today," he said. "Reality is returning to Spanish football. 21 teams have made use of the Ley Concursal [voluntary administration] despite the growth in salaries, generating tension and situation which from now on will not be tolerated. I back the 'Economic Control' accord passed by the LFP. This is the moment to banish the topics which have accompanied football in recent years."

The 20 La Liga clubs combined currently owe an estimated €3 billion. Only nine - Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Getafe, Sevilla and Espanyol - have not utilised the Ley Concursal since it was introduced in 2003.

Those clubs which have entered administration have not faced any football penalties, meaning that when signing a player, they have been free to out-bid rivals who have been more careful with their finances. However, Astiazaran claims this situation will now come to an end.

"We are looking for all teams to be able to compete in equal conditions," he said. "Nobody should be able to take advantage of bad financial management."

The announcement came a day before the closing of a noticeably quiet winter transfer window in Spain. Only Sevilla, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Granada have actually paid a transfer fee to sign a player on a permanent deal this January.

In related news, AS reported on Thursday that Spanish broadcasters who show La Liga games will have to inform the clubs that they could not afford to pay the sums agreed in the current contract. The current agreement guarantees the clubs a combined €755 million a year to share out. AS said this figure could be cut by €175 million.

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