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Aston Villa chief threatens Premier League legal action as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham watch on

Nassef Sawiris, Chairman of Aston Villa, William, Prince of Wales, and Prince George of Wales look on prior to the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest at Villa Park on April 08, 2023 in Birmingham, England.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)


Aston Villa's billionaire owner, Nassef Sawiris, has called for the Premier League to overhaul their rules on club spending after claiming that the system in English football has essentially made the sport a "financial game".

After his side's best Premier League finish since 1996, in which they secured Champions League football for next season alongside a deep run in the Europa Conference League, Sawiris has said that his ambitions of challenging the already-established elite in the country are being limited by the existing legislation.

Sawiris, who is Egypt's richest man with an estimated personal net worth of $9 billion (£7 billion), also claimed that the penalties a club can receive for breaking those regulations lacked transparency after both Everton and Nottingham Forest were handed different points deductions for exceeding allowed financial losses under the league's Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSRs).

In an interview with the Financial Times, he highlighted the 'anti-competitive' nature of the laws and admitted he would seek legal advice on whether he could lodge a formal complaint about the legislation. He said: "Some of the rules have actually resulted in cementing the status quo more than creating upward mobility and fluidity in the sport. The rules do not make sense and are not good for football."

Being the most-watched football league in the world has made the Premier League a magnet for billionaire investors, private equity firms, and even state-sponsored wealth funds who all want a slice of the pie - in no part has that been more apparent than in the case of Manchester City who are owned by Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour.

The Citizens went from mid-table mediocrity in the 2000s to having won four consecutive league titles in the last four years, including a Premier League-Champions League-FA Cup treble last season, but are currently being investigated for 115 alleged breaches of the countries' financial regulations over a period of seven years.

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According to Sawiris, the PSR regulations, which limit how much a club can lose over a three-year period, have now made owners prioritise finding loopholes around issues like selling academy-grown players for 'pure profit' or utilising their stadium for non-sporting events like concerts in order to boost revenues rather than actually generating profit through the sport's usual means.

"Managing a sports team has become more like being a treasurer or a bean counter rather than looking at what your team needs," he continued. "It’s more about creating paper profits, not real profits. It becomes a financial game, not a sporting game. This obvious flaw is to the detriment of the fans."

Chelsea have also come under fire for their incredible spending habits since the arrival of new American owner Todd Boehly back in 2022, having spent over £1 billion on transfers in that short two-year window. The Blues have managed to avoid running into problems with the lawmakers, however, partly due to the long-term contracts they sign young players on and partly due to the fact that they the fact that they balance their books well by selling high-value players for big profits.

However, at the league’s annual meeting in Harrogate last week, clubs agreed to try out two new approaches to financial regulation, with one limiting the spending on players to 85 percent of a club's revenue and the other linking the amount any club can spend to the income of the bottom-ranked team, in turn making it a more balanced affair.

Some clubs have claimed to want the rules tightened to prevent the richest clubs from driving up costs, while others want to be given more leeway to spend in order to stay competitive on the pitch. Whether or not these changes occur before the introduction of English football's independent regulator is unclear, but there could be a dramatic shift in spending regulations before then if Sawiris gets his wish.