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Football | English Championship

Greg Clarke © Action Images

English second tier acts to keep clubs alive



Clubs in the second tier of English soccer have adopted rules designed to curb spiralling losses that threaten the survival of many teams outside the elite Premier League.

The rules, announced on Tuesday, will apply in the 24-team Championship (second division) and have been modelled on the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations introduced by European soccer's ruling body Uefa to clean up finances for top clubs.

Clubs that run up big losses to help win promotion to the Premier League will be fined in the most eye-catching measure.

"The issue we are addressing is how to keep our football clubs alive," said Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football League.

The 72 clubs below the Premier League had debts of nearly one billion pounds and three or four faced extinction in coming seasons if nothing was done, Clarke said.

Portsmouth, relegated last week to the third tier of English soccer, have an uncertain future after going into administration two months ago. Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008 and were in the Premier League until 2010.

Clarke refused to comment on the Portsmouth situation but said that few people wanted to buy clubs when debts were so high and revenues squeezed by an economic recession in Britain.

"The biggest problem at the moment is digging up people who want to own football clubs," he said.

Under the plans, Championship clubs will have to cut their losses to a maximum of £2 million by 2015-16, with additional shareholder investment capped at £3 million.

A Championship club that breaks the rules and wins promotion faces a financial penalty on the excess loss. This "Fair Play Tax" will be applied on a sliding scale, rising to 100 percent on anything over £10 million.

Clarke said he was in talks with the Premier League to ensure the sanctions were applied from the 2014/15 season.

The success of the Premier League over the last two decades has created a gulf between the richest clubs and the rest of English soccer.

Football League clubs will suffer a 26 percent reduction in income from television rights when a new deal kicks in from next season.

All but three of the Championship clubs backed the measures.

"The vast majority of clubs are lined up to change their behaviour," said Derby County chief executive Tom Glick.

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