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Sunderland Takeover Near

Ellis Short, the American businessman, could complete a full takeover of Sunderland by the summer of 2010. The president of Lone Star Funds, a Dallas-based private equity firm, already owns a substantial stake in the club and has an agreement in place to purchase the rest of the shares held by the predominantly Irish Drumaville Corporation. The American, an intensely private individual, has been in effective control of Sunderland for a number of months.

Plymouth Argyle Feel The Pinch

The credit crunch is making itself felt at Championship club Plymouth Argyle in terms of falling attendances - although some locals blame the standard of football on offer at Home Park. Chairman Paul Stapleton has revealed that cost-cutting measures are being considered, but he also believes that Argyle are better positoned than many Football League clubs to cope with the economic crisis. And Stapleton admitted that the money-spinning FA Cup third round tie at Arsenal on January 3 was coming at a very opportune time.

Conference Clubs In Tax Trouble

At least nine Conference clubs have tax bills threatening their existence. A higher number of clubs than expected from the Blue Square Premier, North and South have fallen foul of the stringent quarterly checks after the summer launch of the Financial Reporting initiative. This was set up by the Conference and the FA to monitor the returns of clubs to HM Revenue and Customs. Conference chairman Brian Lee said, 'Part of the problem is that football is an incomparable industry.

'Business As Usual' at Arsenal

It's 'business as usual' at Arsenal with Arsene Wenger claiming he did not see the upheaval that has rocked the boardroom. Arsenal's shares have held their own on the Plus market in recent months with the few that have come on the market selling for £7,500 each. The club has argued that its financial base is more stable than its top four rivals, although it has been hit by the downturn in the property market. The most closely-watched board member is diamond dealer Danny Fiszman.

Quota System For Home Grown Players

Football League chairmen have voted to bring in what is thought to be the only quota system on foreign players anywhere in Europe. The new rule requires that four of the 16 players in a matchday squad should be 'home grown'. Foreign players registered in England for three years before their 21st birthday would qualify as a domestic recruit. The rule will have little immediate effect as all but two of the 72 Football League clubs already comply. However, Football League chairman Lord Mahwinney insisted that this was just the start.

More Foreign Players in Top European Leagues

The annual review by the Professional Football Players Observatory of the European football players' labour market shows that the percentage of players having grown up in a different country to that of their club of employment in the 2007/08 season reached a new record (42.4 per cent). There was 3.6 per cent increase compared to the preceding season. The most marked change was recorded in Italy (+7.5 per cent).

West Ham On The Market, Newcastle Off

West Ham United has been put up for sale, but Newcastle may not be sold. At Upton Park the financially stricken Icelandic owner of the club, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, is inviting offers for the Premiership club. Legally binding non-disclosure agreements have been signed with five interested investors, enabling them to look at confidential financial information about the Hammers on condition that they do not disclose it. This falls short of due diligence which gives prospective buyers full access to the club's accounts.

Arsenal Up For Grabs Again

The ownership of Arsenal could be up for grabs again after a boardroom row effectively ended the board's lockdown agreement under which directors agreed in 2007 to sell shares to each other. The board ousted long-standing director Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith leaving her free to sell her stake to the club's biggest shareholder, Russian steel magnate Alisher Usmanov. Bracewell-Smith has been marginalised in recent years and didn't get her candidate for chief executive appointed.

Real Madrid Tops Money League

Deloitte's annual Football Money League, which analyses revenues in the 2007-8 season, shows Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona retaining their top three positions. Manchester United saw revenue increase by 21 per cent and only the depreciation of sterling against the euro prevented it from coming top. Overall attendances for the top 20 clubs are slightly up in the first four months of the season compared with the same period last year. Seven of the clubs in the top 20 are English, four are from Italy and the same number are from Germany with two each from Spain and France.

More Financial Worries At Hearts

Once again there are rumours that the Edinburgh club are up for sale as uncertainty persists over the finances and intentions of their backers. Twice this season the Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG) has failed to pay players' wages on times and there has been a private admission from within the club that they have a serious cash flow problem. The finances of UBIG and Vladimir Romanov have always appeared complex. News that another club they claim to subsidise, MTZ-Ripo of Belarus, have failed to pay some staff in six months has renewed concerns.