Football Association chairman Lord Triesman today waged war on English football's mounting debt, revealing that the game was a staggering £3billion in the red and needed a radical review to stop it spiralling out of control.
Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge, Triesman said the figure was based on information supplied to him by sources in the City of London whom he declined to name.
''The best estimate I could get in the City yesterday was that debts in English football as a whole have probably edged to the 3,000 million pounds mark,'' said Triesman.
He added that in 2006-7, the Deloitte group identified over £950m of debt in the top four clubs alone, with wages growing at 12% per year.
Having so much ''toxic debt'', he said, posed a tangible danger and suggested the Fit and Proper Persons test - which governs who can buy a Premier League club - needed an urgent review since ownership was no longer as transparent as it should be.
''Transparency lies in an unmarked grave,'' Triesman said.
He refused, however, to be drawn on Thaksin Shinawatra's recent sale of Manchester City to the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Nor, in the current financial storm, would be comment on the problems surrounding West Ham and their Icelandic owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson whose country's banking system is in crisis.
''Nobody has real confidence in what they cannot see,'' said Triesman.
''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.''
Turning to the England national team, who resume their World Cup qualifying exploits this week, Triesman said he had some sympathy with the growing call for more domestically trained players.
''Our national team shows greater resolve after some poor years ...but our historic under-achievement needs remedying,'' he said.
''We need our senior men's team to do well and in Fabio Capello and the players I'm sure we have that capacity.
''But that capacity has certain limits and we need to acknowledge that the number of eligible England players is declining too far too fast.
''England fans rightly demand more and they want it now or at least in very near future. England can't be like an aircraft carrier in which largely foreign fighters take off, however brilliant their engineering.''