Premier League planning tougher finance rules

LONDON - The English Premier League, under pressure from football's authorities and the British government, plans to bolster its financial regulations, notably toughening rules on who can own or invest in a club. The proposals are in response to a request from British Sports Minister Andy Burnham to the high profile league and the Football Association for plans to curb debt and increase financial transparency as the game comes to terms with the worst economic slump in nearly 80 years. English clubs have amassed debts of around three billion pounds with nearly a third of that owed by the top four, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, sparking criticism from lawmakers and politicians. The proposals announced by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore on Monday, include: - an independent audit of club accounts to determine whether a club is a "going concern", in other words financially viable. - an annual requirement to demonstrate that the club does not have outstanding debts to other clubs, in income tax or National Insurance payments. - improve ownership rules such as requiring disclosure of any interest in a club above 10 percent and an extension of the rule whereby conviction for certain offences leads to ineligibility for directorship. - the range of these offences will be widened and would exclude persons who have been sentenced to at least a year in prison or convicted of a so-called dishonesty such as fraud, ticket touting or hooliganism. "These regulations go above and beyond the laws of the land," Scudamore told a panel of reporters. "Clubs have bought into this and I am confident we can have further progress in the future. These rules will help to steer us through what could be choppy waters." FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Saturday debt-laden Premier League clubs could be hardest hit by the global credit crunch, while Michel Platini, head of European football body UEFA, said the game was ready to financially implode. "Clubs are smarter and more in tune than some of the rhetoric we have heard," Scudamore said. "The professionalism of clubs, such as their accountants and lawyers, has never been better. We have not shied away from our responsibilities." Scudamore said the new guidelines, if approved by the league's 20 clubs, should come into force for the start of next season.