The Premier League is facing a new legal dispute with Manchester City after the club and other rebels failed to crack down on “associated party” financial rules.
Competition executives narrowly won approval on Friday to strengthen terms first introduced in 2021 to ensure fair market value for sponsors and transfers.
The rules were previously launched amid concerns over the Public Investment Fund takeover by Newcastle United and Football Leaks allegations of off-the-book payments at Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City.
Since then, however, Newcastle have received major increases in sponsorship deals, including an initial £25 million-a-year deal with Saudi events company Sela.
It is City, however, who are proposing to buy winger Savio from a sister club this summer, who are understood to be threatening the league with arbitration, after opposing further bids with five other clubs.
Legal experts see a significant potential challenge as regulations could be involved in the evidence as City battles the Premier League’s 115 alleged financial breaches at an independent hearing.
Insider sources at the two-day meeting of the clubs in London said new rules, which were put to a vote last November, were passed “by the skin of their teeth”.
A total of 12 clubs ultimately supported the changes, with two abstaining. “It’s hardly an endorsement,” said one dissenting executive.
It is believed to be the first time a Premier League vote has been decided at 12 to six.
The potential legal challenge was raised before the as-yet undisclosed amendments were finally voted on. One source suggested the potential complaint was not specifically related to the new changes.
Meanwhile, the Premier League is understood to be confident that its new associate party transaction (APT) rules, which are intended to ensure a level playing field, are legal.
“After a full review of the current related party transaction rules and fair market value assessment protocols, the clubs have agreed to a series of amendments to further improve the efficiency and accuracy of the system,” the league said.
Teams with close partnerships with other clubs internationally – such as Chelsea, Newcastle and City, as well as Manchester United and Everton if new investment deals are approved – will be most affected by the redrafting of the rules.
City were among eight clubs to vote a temporary loan ban between linked teams for January at the last meeting of the competition.
It is unclear what fee City will pay French affiliate Troyes, who signed Savio in 2022 but loaned him to Girona this season; another team in the CFG Empire.
The 12-strong global City Football Group is the biggest empire in the game, but the ownership of other English clubs is looking to follow suit.
Chelsea is led by Todd Boehly’s consortium, led by private equity investor Clearlake Capital Behdad Eghbali, who also owns Ligue 1 club Strasbourg.
Newcastle’s primary owners, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, have four clubs in the Saudi Pro League.
Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis also owns perennial Greek champions Olympiakos and is said to have held talks with Portuguese club Rio Ave over a potential investment.
Everton is also subject to a proposed takeover by US group 777 Partners which operates an extensive multi-club ownership strategy across Europe and South America.
Manchester United also has a pending 25 percent ownership deal with Ineos, which also owns Ligue One side OGC Nice and Swiss Super League side FC Lausanne-Sport. Unlike the other multi-club owned clubs, United did not vote against proposals for a temporary ban on January loan signings.
City are contesting profit and sustainability charges, and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed last month that a date had been set for a hearing into the allegations.
As well as discussions on spending controls, clubs also met with politicians and EFL colleagues amid efforts to progress the long-awaited new financial system for the pyramid.
Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, attended a dinner with the club’s executives on Thursday, and a summit meeting with representatives of the Football League took place on Wednesday evening.
Championship clubs were said to be the majority of representatives at Wednesday’s meeting, with some skeptical of immediate progress on the so-called “New Deal”. But the siege described meetings as “productive”.
“To build on this momentum, the discussions between the clubs of the two leagues will continue in the coming weeks,” said the competition. “A good work session was also done on the design and implementation of a new financial system for the Premier League.”
The clubs also agreed to a “Premier League environmental sustainability pledge, which introduces a minimum standard of action on environmental issues across clubs and the league”.
Burnley owner Alan Pace is understood to be chairing the meetings between the Premier League and EFL clubs.