Europe's clubs rack up record losses: UEFA

NYON, Switzerland (AFP) – More than half of Europe's top football clubs are still in the red, with a record 1.2 billion euro losses about a year before UEFA's new financial rules kick in, officials said Tuesday.

"Two years ago almost 70 percent of clubs were in the red," said Gianni Infantino, secretary general of European football's governing body.

"At present there are still 56 percent - that means more than half of all professional football clubs are in the red," Infantino told journalists as UEFA unveiled its club licensing report for 2009.

The 655 top division clubs scrutinised by footballing officials collectively reaped 11.7 billion euros in revenue in 2009, an increase of 4.8 percent despite the economic crisis.

AFP file - More than half of Europe's top football clubs are still in the red, with a record 1.2 billion euro losses about a year before UEFA's new financial rules kick in, the organisation says.

"However, the figures demonstrate that we were right to ask for more financial discipline because the reported costs were 12.9 billion euros, an increase of 9.3 percent," said Infantino.

That brought collective club losses up to nearly 1.18 billion euros, an 85 percent increase or "almost double the previous record", UEFA said in its report.

European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said its 197 members backed the new rules.

"I think it is now time to slow down a little, to step on the brakes and introduce a little more reason into football," said Rummenigge, who is also executive chairman of Bayern Munich.

Top division clubs in Europe racked up 800 million euros in transfer fees over a year, while staff costs -- mainly for player wages -- reached seven billion euros in 2009.

UEFA's complex new financial fair play rules, broadly demanding that clubs break even over time, are due to apply from the 2012 financial year.

Sanctions, which still have to be finalised, would be enforced two to three years later by a special panel.

Infantino said that if they were applied now, 11 clubs would "potentially" have been excluded from this season's European League and Champions League.

Sixty percent of clubs breached one of the indicators that would trigger closer scrutiny by UEFA's auditors.

UEFA President Michel Platini said there would be no "finger pointing" or blacklisting of clubs for now.

But he underlined that the rules, which already appear to be reining in transfer spending by some debt-laden big clubs as they try to clean up the balance sheets in time, would be "vital" for football's future.

"There won't be any witchhunts today but on the other hand we won't hesitate to clamp down," he added.

Each English Premier League club generated an estimated 122 million euros in income in 2009, well above their counterparts in Germany (86 million), Italy (76 million), Spain (75 million) and France (52 million), the report found.

But about half of the Premier League clubs were spending more than 12 euros for every 10 they earned in 2009, while only five or six were even or in profit.

That compared with just a handful of top Bundesliga clubs that were less deeply in the red as Germany displayed the most balanced financial habits in Europe, according to UEFA's charts.

The rules are designed to ensure a level paying field by preventing clubs from "repeatedly" spending more than the revenues they generate, officials explained.

They will apply to clubs from 53 leagues which qualify for European competitions.

Other criteria like excessive debt, unpaid bills and long term spending patterns also come into play.

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