Aston Villa’s billionaire owner blasts Premier League spending rules amid Man City legal case

Nassef Sawiris watching Aston Villa
Nassef Sawiris says Premier League spending rules are 'anti-competitive' - Getty Images/Stu Forster

Aston Villa’s Abu Dhabi-based owner warned he is taking legal advice over Premier League spending rules in an outburst coinciding with Manchester City’s arbitration action.

Just two days after City’s hearing began against associated-party transaction rules, Nassef Sawiris went public with concerns over wider profitability and sustainability curbs.

“The rules do not make sense and are not good for football,” said Sawiris, Egypt’s richest man, in an interview with the Financial Times, adding that the rules are “anti-competitive”.

Telegraph Sport reported suggestions last week that Sawiris shared some of City’s concerns, having last December announced a “long-term commitment” to the UAE capital.

At least one rival club – which was said by sources not to be Villa – is said to fully support the action being brought by City at a two-week hearing ahead of the champions’ separate case against 115 charges.

“Some of the rules have actually resulted in cementing the status quo more than creating upward mobility and fluidity in the sport,” Sawiris told the FT.

“Managing a sports team has become more like being a treasurer or a bean counter rather than looking at what your team needs. It’s more about creating paper profits, not real profits. It becomes a financial game, not a sporting game.”

Villa have sided with City in at least two votes this year at Premier League meetings and last week, at the league’s AGM, the club was defeated in a proposal, supported by just one other club, to increase allowable losses in the final three-year cycle.

The outcome of the current City case has major consequences for rival clubs as it could affect the size of sponsorship deals that they are allowed to receive.

V Sports, Sawiris’ joint venture with American billionaire Wesley Edens, has had full control of Villa since 2019 and is one of the league’s lesser known multi-club regimes, with a network that includes Portuguese club Vitoria SC and partnerships with teams in Spain, Egypt and Japan.

Sawiris told the FT that “opaque and seemingly arbitrary” PRS rules are “more about creating paper profits, not real profits”. “It becomes a financial game, not a sporting game,” he added.

Sawiris’ NNS Group announced he was joining a wave of global investors last year that have set up shop in the emirate that owns City. Dutch chemical producer OCI NV, where Sawiris is chairman, had already listed its joint fertiliser venture with Adnoc in the emirate in late 2021.

“I am delighted to announce our long-term commitment to the UAE and ADGM [Abu Dhabi Global Market], in particular,”  Sawiris said in December.

“The importance of the UAE to the worldwide financial ecosystem makes NNS believe the transition of its key activities to the UAE will contribute to the further development and growth of its portfolio and core activities.”

Leicester City have also threatened legal action against the Premier League over a possible PSR breach.