Newcastle United's Financial Fair Play stance blasted by former Liverpool and Aston Villa director

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Newcastle United's battle with Financial Fair Play regulations has been discussed by a former Premier League director.

Newcastle United’s Saudi-led owners should have been subjected to different Financial Fair Play regulations in the aftermath of their takeover at St James Park.

That was the verdict of former Aston Villa and Liverpool CEO Christian Purslow as he assessed the current regulations, which seem to be limiting the impact of owners at several clubs. A prolonged takeover process finally came to a close in October 2021 when a PIF-led consortium finally concluded a £320m deal with former United owner Mike Ashley and wasted little time in ringing the changes at St James Park.

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Less than a month after the deal was given the green light, the new owners parted company with former manager Steve Bruce and named Eddie Howe as his successor. Over the course of two transfer windows, Howe’s squad was strengthened with eye-catching additions such as Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimaraes, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak. That led to a successful battle against relegation and a surprise top four finish as the Magpies returned to the Champions League for the first time in two decades. However, after being taken to the brink of their financial fair play limits, United have been left with little room for manoeuvre in the transfer market, with the sale of popular winger Allan Saint-Maximin required to allow Howe to bring in the likes of Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes last summer.

Speaking about the impact of the current regulations, Purslow told talkSPORT: "I think that these rules never ended up where they were meant to go.  These rules were initially initiated by Michel Platini. It was French-led way to tackle the ever increasing superiority of English clubs. In 2008, three English clubs participated in the semi-finals of what Michel viewed as the European Cup - we call it the Champions League. Two of them, Liverpool and Manchester United, were swimming in debt from their takeovers. Chelsea had a large amount of shareholder debt. They began as a crusade to not allow debt in the sport, because it was risky, damaging and it was enabling clubs to spend crazy money. There was no mention of debt in the final drafting of Financial Fair Play in 2010 and 2011.”

Purslow went on to describe Eddie Howe's admission Newcastle would have to sell players to bring in new faces during the January transfer window as ‘a seismic moment for the average football fan’ and insisted United’s PIF-led owners should have more freedom to develop the club and put their ambitious plans in action.

He said: ”It changed. It became about clubs breaking even, living within their resources. I think that that has had a series of unintended consequences, the most obvious one being that...when Eddie Howe said in the first week of January that we're going to have to sell players to buy players, that was a seismic moment for the average football fan like me.

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“This club is owned by an impossibly wealthy owner, who is highly ambitious, we've seen what they've done in golf. They didn't buy Newcastle to be a mid-table side, they want to challenge the elite, the establishment. They've got the money, there's no question of sustainability. They're using real cash but they're having to sell players, ironically, probably to the 'Big Six' who benefit.  

"That feels wrong. The first unintended consequence is that we shouldn't be using these rules to prevent really well funded new owners restructuring and improving clubs in the period after a takeover. I would like to see reboot of the rules, which treats clubs post-takeovers differently. Maybe over a period of time, maybe three years, and if they submit their plans which involve losses, they have to be funded with real cash, guaranteed."

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