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