Chelsea transfer condemns ‘destructive and disastrous’ rules ahead of key Aston Villa PSR deadline

General view of Villa Park
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

D-Day is approaching for the likes of Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and a host of their Premier League rivals. June 30 - or Sunday - is the end of the Premier League’s accounting year. But for member clubs, it also means accountability in another, crucial way.

That is because June 30 is the final day for top-flight clubs to get their books balanced before the Premier League starts delving into them looking for overspending, the busting of rules that mean no club can lose more than £105m over three years. And if you get promoted in that time, as happened to Forest a couple of years ago and to Leicester last season, then the margin for error is even tighter.

Martin Samuel, the award-winning columnist for the Times, has been looking at an ever more complex issue and the ways clubs like Villa, Everton and Chelsea have been attempting to circumvent it.

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In his latest column, Samuel writes: “The newest ruse appears to be a transfer merry-go-round involving clubs that are believed to be having difficulty complying with the new, extreme, profitability and sustainability rules. Chelsea, Everton and Aston Villa are in the spotlight at present.

“Homegrown-ness is the key. Whatever Harry Kane’s departure did for Tottenham Hotspur as a team, in PSR terms it was a lottery win; as was Jack Grealish to Manchester City for Aston Villa.

“Crucial to recent events too, is the Premier League’s date for clubs to show their numbers: June 30. Heaven knows who came up with a deadline two months before the transfer window ends when player trading is such a key part of revenue.”

Samuel claims the league spent at least £30m in the past year suing member clubs, action which ultimately saw Everton and Forest hit with points deductions and Leicester threatened with action once they are once again officially members of the top-flight after July 1.

Their latest gripe appears to be the perception that Villa, Chelsea and Everton are trading young, homegrown players between them to help balance their books, knowing that academy products like Lewis Dobbin (sold by Everton to Villa), Tim Iroegbunam (sold by Villa to Everton), Omari Kellyman (about to be sold by Villa to Chelsea) and Ian Maatsen (about to go from Chelsea to Villa) amount to almost total profit.

Samuel adds: “Maybe Richard Masters [the Premier League chief executive] should sue the people who write such lousily constructed rules, or just let people run their businesses as they would, quite legally, in any other industry. What we can all agree on, however, is that any system that encourages football clubs to jettison the players that are young, loyal and have the most joyous connection with fans is destructive and disastrous.”

To avoid clubs having to sell such players as a way of complying with PSR, Samuel has a simple solution - add the wages of any academy product to the already long list of exemptions from the spending rules which already cover youth development.

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Another Chelsea player linked with Villa this summer is England midfielder Connor Gallagher, and Samuel uses him as an example of what is wrong with the current system.

He says: “All season it has been speculated that, when the financial crunch comes in June, he will be sold because he’s more use to the club on the books than on the pitch. And that’s harsh on Gallagher, who is Chelsea through and through.

“Of all the players that Chelsea could, or should, be selling this summer, Gallagher is the least of them. But he’s pure profit, if it happens. So change that. If Gallagher’s wages did not appear as a cost on the PSR balance sheet there would be no motive to sell him at all.

“These are the sort of rule changes that would benefit football, not artificial mid-summer deadlines that make compliance a nightmare. Alternatively we can carry on with this charade, and this cycle of red tape, protectionism, half-baked legislation, retribution, punishment and unforeseen consequences perpetually arising.”

Is PSR a necessary evil or a barrier to ambitious clubs? Click HERE to have your say on the issue