The 2010/11 Premier League season has kicked off at last but, thanks to Manchester City’s millions and more foreign take-overs, it’s the money as much as the football that’s being talked about.
Once the dust had settled on Blackpool’s blistering start to life in the top flight, Joe Cole’s less-than-impressive Liverpool debut and Ryan Giggs becoming the only player to have scored in every Premier League season, the talk was once again back to Man City’s no holds barred budgeting and potential foreign takeovers at both Blackburn and Liverpool.
With the alarm bells of Portsmouth’s £119 million worth of debt – £38.2 million of which was in unsecured loans – still ringing in his ears, Premier League chief Richard Scudamore recently unveiled the League’s amendment to it’s ‘fit and proper persons’ criteria.
According to the new rules, anyone now wishing to take over a Premier League club must give the league 10 days’ notice and prove that they have the funds to sustain the club.
Other ‘tough’ new rules that clubs and their owners will have to adhere to are that they must now provide Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs with quarterly evidence that tax payments are up to date – and that they give permission for HMRC to give details on any non-payment directly to the league.
In addition the ‘fit and proper persons test’ has been extended so that anyone that has been barred from other sporting organisations or competitions will no longer be permitted to become director of a Premier League club.
So, in a nutshell, anyone wishing to take over a football club has to prove they’ve got the sufficient funds in place and get their tax returns in on time… which suggests that, up until now, it’s been easier to take over a top flight football club than it has been to get the bank to agree to an overdraft!
But what if the man-in-the-street were to run his personal finances like that of a Premier League club?
There are several examples you could follow, but beware, at least one of them will leave you in hot water with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and may even leave you as a guest of Her Majesty’s Prison Service!
Okay, so Pompey are no longer a Premier League club but it was their rapid demise that opened this whole can of worms so they can be used for illustrative purposes on this occasion.
The story of Portsmouth truly is a jaw-dropping one once you get into the scale of their debt – all £119 million of it!
It goes from the truly astonishing – £38.2 million of unsecured loans, £5 million of which are owed to Sulaiman al-Fahim who only owned the club for 90 days! – to the utterly absurd – £40 to Pukka Pies and 20p to Qatar Airways!
So if you were to model your personal fiscal policy on the Portsmouth model, then you would simply take out any loan (be it a secured or unsecured loan), credit card, overdraft or re-mortgage that you could get your hands on.
And then you’d probably ask your best mate to lend you a tenner as well!
Obviously, you’d have absolutely no way of paying any of this back and, in addition to dodging your creditors, you’d also file all (unopened) correspondence from HM Revenue & Customs in your recycling bin!
It was just three years ago that the bunting was hung out at Anfield as George Gillet and Tom Hicks took control of Liverpool Football Club… but after several broken promises over stadium and team rebuilding, not to mention the reported £472.5million of debt secured against the club, the only things fans want to see hung out at Anfield these days are the owners!
And it’s a similar story down the East Lancs road as the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, are reportedly £1.1billion in debt, with £700 million of that directly linked to the Old Trafford club!
So, having been scared off by the threat of imprisonment under the Portsmouth model, how would you go about running your day-to-day finances like Engalnd’s most successful football clubs?
It’s pretty simple really, you buy up as much property as you possibly can and just keep re-mortgaging and taking out as many secured loans as you possibly can.
Then, in your rapidly elevated financial position, buy up a few small businesses and load all the debt onto them… with a little luck and even less judgement you may just walk away from the whole thing completely bankrupt… financially and socially!
On the face of it, Everton appear to be doing quite nicely. Run by a steady-handed chairman and an astute manager, they’ve gone from perennial relegation-fodder to regular Champions League hopefuls.
In Goodison Park, they own a ground with one of the largest capacities in the League and whilst they never go on crazy spending sprees, they aren’t averse to splashing the cash and, up until last summer, were regularly breaking their own transfer records on big money transfers.
But, dig a little deeper and things aren’t quite so rosy.
The club is desperate to move to a bigger ground, the wage budget has increased by a whopping 63 per cent since 2006 and the club are paying £4million a year in interest on their reported £37.9million pounds of debt.
If the previous two models are not for you then you may find the Everton model a little more straightforward.
You’ll have a reasonably well paid job and probably have a nice house but this won’t be enough so you’ll go out and buy some expensive items on credit cards, knowing full well that it’ll take you an age to pay them back.
Then, as the credit card bills increase, you’ll pay them off with unsecured consolidation loans and keep a little back for one last blow out.
Note: repeat ad infinitum to end up at the Portsmouth model!
There must be something in the water around the midlands as Wolves, Birmingham and Stoke are as close as you can get to being a debt-free Premier League club
Under Steve Morgan’s stewardship and thanks in no small part to Sir Jack Hayward writing off the £50million the club owed him, Wolves only debt comes in the from of the £13 million interest-free loan from the current owner.
Birmingham are in similarly rude health, as they owe a £12million interest-free loan to their parent company.
Stoke have the lowest level of debt in the League, at just £2.3 million but do rely heavily on Peter Coates as their main benefactor.
To follow either of these models you must simply live within your means and not go into debt to fund frivolous spending sprees or expensive impulse buys.
But, judging by all three clubs’ heavy reliance on the generosity of their benefactors, it’s probably helpful if you have a rich relative you can sponge off from time to time!
Now the richest club in the world thanks to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi who converted the £305million that the club owed him into equity, thereby writing off the debt in one fell swoop!
City have broken the bank for players since the Sheikh took over and have already spent over £100 million this summer with another reported £26million set to go on Aston Villa’s James Milner!
There’s only one way to follow the Manchester City model and it can be summed up in just four words:
Saturday. Night. Six. Numbers.