Premier League owe 56% of European football debt
A report to be released by UEFA on the financial wellbeing of European football will reveal that Premier League clubs owe 56% of the continent's total footballing debt, raising further questions about why English football's finances have been allowed to spiral out of control.
The biggest worry for Premier League clubs is that both West Ham and financially stricken Portsmouth are not even included in the official report, called the "European Footballing Landscape", as their monetary problems prohibited them from being given UEFA licenses, meaning that the figures for English clubs would be even higher.
The Premier League debt comes despite England's clubs earning significantly more from televsion and other commercial income - €122 million on average - than any of Europe's other major league
Details of the report, released in the Guardian on Wednesday, reveal that the combined debts of the 18 Premier League clubs, excluding West Ham and Pompey, sit at £3.5 billion, with two of England's biggest clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool, owing around £1 billion between them.
The figure is more than all other European leagues combined and around four times the figure for La Liga, the second most indebted division. As the report analyses the 2007-08 annual accounts of all 732 clubs licensed by UEFA, the Premier League's actual debt is undoubtedly higher, as the interest payments for clubs like United and Liverpool have increased.
The debts of both United and Liverpool are cited by UEFA as highly significant to the Premier League's overall debt, with the report criticising the leveraged takeover model employed by George Gillet and Tom Hicks at Liverpool, and Malcolm Glazer at Manchester United.
"Just over half of [the Premier League's] commercial debt has been placed into the [relevant] clubs [or at a holding company level] recently as a result of leveraged buyouts," the report says, "so far acting principally as a burden rather than to support investment or spending".
The revelations of the report are likely to increase the calls for UEFA to bring in its proposed Financial Fair Play Rules,which make it a requirement for clubs to break even from 2012-13, with UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino pointing to the crisis at Portsmouth as the latest evidence that financial reforms are desperately needed in European football.
"The Portsmouth example shows something must be done to help the clubs be more sustainable," he told the Guardian. "The English Premier League clubs have higher revenues, but it is worrying to see such huge debt. If it is borrowed to fuel spending on players, the problem comes when you cannot borrow any more money and can no longer pay the debts."