Premier League to check if sale of Villa Park breached FFP rules

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Ben Rumsby

Aston Villa’s sale of Villa Park is to be probed by the Premier League to check whether it breached fi­nan­cial fair play reg­u­la­tions, The Daily Tele­graph has learnt.

Af­ter it emerged independen­t val­u­a­tions had been or­dered by the English Foot­ball League into the sale by Derby, Sheffield Wed­nes­day and Read­ing of their own grounds, it can be re­vealed that Villa will not es­cape scru­tiny af­ter win­ning the Cham­pi­onship play-off fi­nal and se­cur­ing a top-flight re­turn. All four clubs sold their sta­di­ums to their own owners – who then leased them back – in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to bal­ance their books and avoid a transfer ban or points de­duc­tion.

It was un­clear last night whether the Premier League would fol­low the EFL’S lead by or­der­ing an independen­t val­u­a­tion of Villa Park or ex­am­ine ev­i­dence from the club be­fore de­cid­ing whether the £56.7 mil­lion sale rep­re­sented the kind of “fair mar­ket value” re­quired.

Villa, Derby, Sheffield Wed­nes­day and Read­ing all ex­ploited an EFL rule change that ended a ban on clubs us­ing prof­its earned from sell­ing their sta­di­ums to com­ply with fi­nan­cial fair play reg­u­la­tions.

The Tele­graph has learnt the 2016 rule change was never intended to open the door to such a practice and moves are afoot to close it again.

Premier League profit and sus­tain­abil­ity rules, with which the EFL’S own reg­u­la­tions were har­monised three years ago, do not pro­hibit clubs us­ing cash earned from sta­dium sales to com­ply with them. How­ever, Uefa’s fi­nan­cial fair play rules do, act­ing as a de­ter­rent for top-flight clubs. Villa de­clined to com­ment, but a source with knowl­edge of Villa Park’s sale to owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens has told The Tele­graph the EFL had al­ready ap­proved it af­ter the club com­mis­sioned three independen­t val­u­a­tions of the ground.

The Premier League new­com­ers are thought to be en­tirely con­fi­dent of com­ply­ing with its rules.

Derby sold Pride Park to owner Mel Morris the sea­son be­fore last for £80mil­lion, al­most dou­ble the amount for which it was listed in the club’s books. That al­lowed them to post a pre-tax profit of £14.6mil­lion that year when losses in ex­cess of £39 mil­lion over a three-year pe­riod amount to a breach of the EFL’S profit and sus­tain­abil­ity rules.

Derby, Sheffield Wed­nes­day and Read­ing have con­sis­tently de­nied hav­ing breached any reg­u­la­tions.

Ground deal: Nassef Sawiris (right) bought Villa Park with Wes Edens

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