Manchester United minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has warned that the Premier League could be in “ruin” if financial regulations become too stringent.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the INEOS billionaire shared his thoughts on the league’s regulations and Manchester City’s upcoming legal battle against the Premier League, stating that he “can understand why they are challenging it”.

Manchester City announced that it would be challenging the league on associated party transaction (APT) rules. On 10 June, a two-week private arbitration hearing commenced, with City asserting the club has been subjected to a “tyranny of the majority” and alleging discrimination against them.

This move by the club follows City being charged with 115 alleged violations of Premier League regulations. These include allegations of inaccurate financial reporting, non-adherence to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, and breaches of the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR).

Although the club’s allegations towards the Premier League have been challenged by a majority of football fans and stakeholders, Ratcliffe, an owner of City’s local rivals, has said that he “can understand why they would say that they want an open market, a free market”. 

Does Ratcliffe’s motives align with Man City’s? 

Ratcliffe’s comments to Bloomberg about his club’s rivals are not unsurprising. In fact, these comments align with his viewpoint during the whole interview, which is that the league needs to be careful to not end up in “an endless legal wrangle with lots of clubs”.

Ratcliffe said: “The Premier League is probably the most successful sporting league in the world, certainly the most successful football league in the world. And we have this expression in northern England: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

“If you start interfering too much, bringing too much regulation in, then you finish up with the Manchester City issue, you finish up with the Everton issue, you finish up with the Nottingham Forest issue – on and on and on.

“If you’re not careful, the Premier League is going to finish up spending more time in court than it is thinking about what’s good for the league. We have got the best league in the world, don’t ruin that league for heaven’s sake.”

The 2023/24 season has been labelled by some as ‘the season of regulation’, as several clubs including Everton, Nottingham Forest, and even Championship title winners Leicester City faced point deductions. Leicester’s penalty will take effect next season, following its promotion.

Concerns over regulations extend beyond the frequency of legal battles and point deductions. Everton, for instance, attributes its financial difficulties to expenses related to a new stadium.

It’s time for new regulation

These developments sparked discussions about a new regulatory framework. Manchester United supported strengthening the APT rules that City are currently contesting. However, like their cross-city rivals and Aston Villa, Manchester United opposed new “anchoring” proposals aimed at capping spending on wages, transfers, and agents’ fees.

Ratcliffe added: “Anchoring would inhibit the top clubs in the Premier League. The last thing you want is for the top clubs in the Premier League not to be able to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG – that’s absurd. And if it does, it then ceases to be the finest league in the world.”

Ratcliffe commented on what he perceives as a trend towards excessive regulation in the Premier League since Richard Scudamore’s departure in 2018, describing it as a “drift into complexity”. 

Despite the United owner’s opinion, anchoring will be trialled in a shadow capacity in the upcoming Premier League season. During the interview, Ratcliffe went on to express concern about the potential consequences of heavy regulation, stating, “If you’ve got a government regulator, they will regulate, and that won’t be beneficial”.

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