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In recent weeks Michel Platini has been attacked as “anti-English” for criticising Premier League clubs who have taken on huge debts. So too has FA chairman Lord Triesman, for echoing Platini’s words and attacking the levels of debt in English football.

Triesman is motivated largely by political expediency and the need to cosy up to UEFA and FIFA ahead of a prospective World Cup bid. And with the FA having borrowed heavily to fund the glass house that is Wembley stadium, Triesman would be advised not to throw too many stones.

But the criticism of Platini is less justified. Why, so the argument goes, doesn’t he criticise clubs in other countries – his own for starters – where there are also big debts? He doesn’t because he doesn’t like the English. He’s never liked us, probably never will.

Well, the simple fact is that no other major European football nation has a level of indebtedness to compete with England. Furthermore, it not so much the level of debt that is worrying as the manner of the debt.

In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have both borrowed heavily in recent years but they have done so with the effective consent of their fans, who elect the respective club presidents, and can vote them out again. The Spanish debts are also relatively low-risk repayment loans taken out at favourable interest rates with local banks.

In contrast, the “leveraged” debts taken on by Liverpool and Manchester United have seen fans paying for the high-risk, high-rate loans taken out simply to fund the clubs’ acquisition by new owners (Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool, the Glazers at Manchester United). The high-interest debts have then been dumped back on the clubs, restricting the amount the clubs can spend on new players or, in the case of Liverpool, a new stadium.

So Platini is raising legitimate concerns about “unsustainable” levels of debt in English football. He is also right to question the strength of the English challenge in the Champions League. Though I am not convinced UEFA are in a position to do anything about it.

Despite Chelsea’s defeat in Rome last week and Arsenal’s failure to beat Fenerbahce, the power of the English teams is undeniable this season. There is still every chance, draw permitting, of all-English semi-finals this spring.

The structure of the Champions League, with prize money skewed towards the biggest TV markets, means that the gap between English clubs and the rest will increase every year. The rich are getting richer, no matter now much debt is involved.

In recent weeks Michel Platini has been attacked as “anti-English” for criticising Premier League clubs who have taken on huge debts. So too has FA chairman Lord Triesman, for echoing Platini’s words and attacking the levels of debt in English football.

Triesman is motivated largely by political expediency and the need to cosy up to UEFA and FIFA ahead of a prospective World Cup bid. And with the FA having borrowed heavily to fund the glass house that is Wembley stadium, Triesman would be advised not to throw too many stones.

But the criticism of Platini is less justified. Why, so the argument goes, doesn’t he criticise clubs in other countries – his own for starters – where there are also big debts? He doesn’t because he doesn’t like the English. He’s never liked us, probably never will.

Well, the simple fact is that no other major European football nation has a level of indebtedness to compete with England. Furthermore, it not so much the level of debt that is worrying as the manner of the debt.

In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have both borrowed heavily in recent years but they have done so with the effective consent of their fans, who elect the respective club presidents, and can vote them out again. The Spanish debts are also relatively low-risk repayment loans taken out at favourable interest rates with local banks.

In contrast, the “leveraged” debts taken on by Liverpool and Manchester United have seen fans paying for the high-risk, high-rate loans taken out simply to fund the clubs’ acquisition by new owners (Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool, the Glazers at Manchester United). The high-interest debts have then been dumped back on the clubs, restricting the amount the clubs can spend on new players or, in the case of Liverpool, a new stadium.

So Platini is raising legitimate concerns about “unsustainable” levels of debt in English football. He is also right to question the strength of the English challenge in the Champions League. Though I am not convinced UEFA are in a position to do anything about it.

Despite Chelsea’s defeat in Rome last week and Arsenal’s failure to beat Fenerbahce, the power of the English teams is undeniable this season. There is still every chance, draw permitting, of all-English semi-finals this spring.

The structure of the Champions League, with prize money skewed towards the biggest TV markets, means that the gap between English clubs and the rest will increase every year. The rich are getting richer, no matter now much debt is involved.

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