BusinessCompany NewsClubs label FSA rules ‘impossible’

Clubs label FSA rules 'impossible'

Leading finance directors in football have told Accountancy Age that demands from the Financial Services Authority to ensure price-sensitive information is first released on the Stock Exchange are 'almost impossible' to meet.

Link: 2003 football finance survey

The FDs, some from the UK’s premier teams, are concerned that transactions involving third parties such as football agents might be leaked to the press early for publicity reasons. As the clubs do not employ the agents, the FDs would be unable to meet the FSA demands. The financial directors are now in talks with the FSA to clarify the exact requirements.

Mark Fenoughty, FD at AIM-listed Sheffield United, said: ‘It can be fairly difficult to meet your obligations because of the number of people involved and the fact that some are not financially sophisticated. You can take all the steps you like, but you can’t stop the speculation. In certain circumstances, if a transaction takes a long time, it is almost impossible to comply.’

In an open letter, the FSA told listed clubs they could not go public with price-sensitive information, such as the price of a player, before it is officially released on the Stock Exchange.

It also said that clubs should ‘advise any third parties involved in negotiations of the company’s disclosure obligations’.

A finance director at one of the country’s biggest listed clubs complained that often, the motives of the people they negotiate with, such as players’ agents, ‘do not fit in with the club’s and it makes our job difficult’.

He added that his club always had to be ready to respond if there was false speculation on major players.

PKF partner Mike Evans, who audits Fulham’s accounts, said the problem was that besides the clubs, agents, players and coaches were involved in the transfer. ‘Others may leak information to the press. The club is not necessarily in control.’

This week, the FSA conceded that, even if a club informs third parties of their obligations, some of the parties involved are not forced to comply with the rules and can leak information.

A spokesman said in that case, they ‘need to have a holding announcement just in case’. He added that if a listed club was found to be in breach of the listing rules, it would be fined or censured.

Email Adriana_Zea@vnu.co.uk.

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