Wrangling over sums threatens top clubs’ vote

ENGLAND’S top football clubs are today expected to take a historic vote on so-called financial fair play (FFP) measures, but agreement could yet be scuppered by differences over exactly how strict they should be.

Representatives of all 20 Premier League clubs have discussed two different ways of reining in spending: restricting year-on-year wage bill rises and a rule requiring teams to work towards breaking even.

But chairmen were last night understood to be split over the finer details of both plans, while some are not in favour of either of the proposals, which could be implemented as soon as next season.

For a rule change to be passed, at least 14 of 20 clubs must vote in favour. A vote is not certain to take place, but indications yesterday were that months of negotiations were set to result in one, or more likely both, rules being passed.

Under the first proposal, believed to have been advanced by Sunderland, teams would be prevented from increasing their wage bills by more than five or 10 per cent each year. However, there is thought to be disagreement among clubs as to which figure should be the upper limit.

A break-even rule, similar to that devised by European governing body Uefa and applied to clubs in the Champions League and Europa League, would require sides to spend only what they generate.

Such a rule would take several seasons to phase in, with clubs being permitted to make limited but ever-diminishing losses – if covered by cash from the owners – and ultimately break even.

Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool, who are among those with the biggest revenues, are firmly in favour, but there remain differences over what level of losses should be permitted in the phasing-in period.

The moves to curb spending are in part a response to wage inflation and the financial difficulties faced by some clubs. New television contracts are set to earn clubs an extra £20m at least from next season, and there is appetite to avoid it fuelling further salary rises.

Fulham and Manchester City are thought to be among those opposed to either rule, which critics have argued will help to cement the dominance of the current elite.

THE PROPOSALS

■ A majority of 14 of 20 clubs must vote in favour for either of the following rules to be passed. It is thought more likely that both or neither will succeed, rather than one

■ Wage cap: Teams are restricted to increasing their wage bill year-on-year by a certain amount. Figures of 5-10 per cent have been mooted, but neither is thought to have full backing

■ Break-even: Clubs required to limit losses to a pre-agreed amount, as long as they are covered by owners, with a view to eventually breaking even