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Billions in the red: English Premier League clubs
The Guardian, February 24th, 2010 4:05AM
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An official report by UEFA, European soccer's governing body, calculated that 18 English Premier League clubs carried a combined debt of $5.4 billion. The report analyzes the 2007-08 annual accounts, the latest available, of all 732 clubs licensed by UEFA. The EPL debt was about four times the figure for the next most indebted top division, Spain's La Liga.

Only 18 EPL clubs are included in the report because two of the most indebted, troubled Portsmouth and West Ham, were not granted UEFA licences that year due to their financial difficulties. The Premier League made much more money from television and other commercial income than its rivals, but despite that commercial advantage, the 18 English clubs were hugely more reliant on borrowed money from banks and club owners than the 714 other clubs combined. "English clubs contain on their balance sheets an estimated 56 percent of Europe-wide commercial debt," the report says.

Manchester United and Liverpool's debts now add up to more than $1.5 billion collectively. Those huge debts were loaded on to the clubs by their U.S. owners' "leveraged" takeovers, yet despite the furore and mass supporter protests particularly over United's $1.1 billion debts, neither the Premier League nor FA have voiced any concern.

"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."

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