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UEFA to discuss adding debt to financial limits

October 9, 2014

LONDON (AP) — UEFA could extend its Financial Fair Play regulations to punish heavily-indebted clubs, with possible changes set to be discussed at a meeting with clubs next week.

European football’s governing body requires clubs to approach break-even on football-related business, punishing clubs including Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain whose wealthy owners cover heavy losses.

While Manchester City is debt-free, clubs such as Manchester United and Barcelona, which have heavy liabilities, could fall under any debt-level restrictions added to FFP.

Barcelona’s debt was recently recorded at 287 million euros ($365 million), while Manchester United’s debt resulting from the 2005 leveraged takeover was given as 342 million pounds ($550 million) in the latest accounts. Strong commercial operations help United and Barcelona to finance their debt.

“We are now focused on losses, and to repay the debt is part of the loss that the club can make at the end of the season,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said Thursday in London. “But certainly the question of debt is something that can be put on the table.”

That is due to happen on Monday at a meeting UEFA is hosting with clubs.

Infantino confirmed an impending rule change in the Champions League, with top-seed status only to given to the winners of the highest-ranked leagues and the titleholder. The group-stage change just has to be ratified in December by UEFA’s executive committee, Infantino said.

“People had difficulties in understanding how the champion of a country is in a lower pot than the third ranked in that country,” Infantino said.

Currently, UEFA ranks clubs over five years of results, leaving national champions Man City, Juventus and PSG among No. 2-seeded teams this season. Arsenal and FC Porto, who placed fourth and third in their respective leagues last season, were included in Pot 1, so avoided stronger teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid in the group-stage draw.

The countries given top-seed status were Spain, England, Germany, Italy, Portugal, France and Russia, with the eighth place in the pot assigned to the holders.

Infantino was speaking at the Leaders’ Sport Business Summit in London. Here are other headlines from the gathering at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium:

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WATCH WATCH: The saga of the luxury watches given in World Cup gifts bags remains a damaging issue for FIFA. Long-standing executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe described the $27,000 Parmigiani watch he and 64 others received from the Brazilian federation as a “poisonous present.”

“I have been in football 42 years and received many watches in my career,” the Belgium official said. “It is a classical present in football, so I did not need that watch.”

FIFA’s ethics investigator ruled that the watches must be returned by Oct. 24 For D’Hooghe, that has meant asking for the time piece back from an acquaintance.

“I am to be humiliated towards that person to ask for that watch back,” D’Hooghe said. “I asked the person to whom I gave it to give it back.”

QATAR CRITICISM: Few high-profile players speak out against FIFA, but Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer told delegates that the conduct of world football’s governing body is his “biggest disappointment in football.”

The 42-year-old former Australia goalkeeper campaigned unsuccessfully for his country to land the 2022 World Cup, which was awarded to Qatar. Schwarzer said if FIFA wants to be trusted, it should not resist publishing the corruption investigation report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

“I find it really, really disappointing to see a global body that has so little trust globally, from anyone — even the members of the game,” Schwarzer said. “It is such a shame to see football being run how it’s being run.”

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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