Debt on agenda as Man City and Euro elite mull changes to FFP

Frank Dalleres
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Manchester City were among top clubs involved in yesterday’s Uefa meeting
Europe's top football clubs, including Premier League champions Manchester City, have held talks with governing body Uefa over a possible clampdown on debt levels.

Such a move could prevent teams from accumulating large debts, as City’s neighbours and rivals Manchester United have, and was one of several changes to controversial financial fair play (FFP) rules discussed at yesterday’s summit in Switzerland.

Clubs also debated appropriate levels of owner investment, the potential of FFP rules to ossify traditional hierarchies, the fair value of related-party transactions and claims that teams such as Liverpool have benefited unfairly from being able to overspend in pursuit of qualification for European competition. No changes are believed to be imminent.

Joining City officials at the meeting, which was chaired by Uefa president Michel Platini, were representatives from the Football Association, European champions Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and AC Milan.

Uefa said in a statement that participants “restated their support” for FFP at the meeting – the first of its kind since an initial swathe of sanctions was issued this year – but described discussions as “full and frank”.

City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak complained in May that he disagreed with Uefa’s viewpoint and made specific reference to debt after the club were fined £49m and hit with a number of other penalties for exceeding limits on allowable losses.

“We have a sustainable project today, in Manchester and across the board in the City Football Group,” he said. “We have zero debt. We don’t pay a penny to service any debt. For me, that is a sustainable model. However, our friends at Uefa seem to believe otherwise. They have their view, we have ours. I disagree with their views, but we are pragmatic.”

The champions were the only English club to be found in breach of FFP at the end of last season, though French title-winners Paris Saint-Germain were also heavily fined for exceeding loss limits.

While United have debts of around £350m – a relic of their leveraged £790m takeover by the Glazers in 2005 – doubts have been cast on whether Uefa would seek to punish teams with debts that predate FFP rules.

Clubs also discussed the sensitive topic of how Liverpool, Monaco and Roma returned to the Champions League this season without having to submit their accounts for 2011-13, unlike teams who were already taking part in European competition. That had led to claims that they benefited from a loophole allowing them to outspend some of their rivals.

“Today’s meeting was very constructive and showed once more that they key stakeholders in Europe are keen to work together to create a healthy financial landscape for club football,” Platini said. “We must now work together to ensure that clubs can grow and prosper in the future – and today’s discussions were an encouraging step in that direction.”