Chelsea

Will UEFA’s Financial Fairplay Regulations Really Lead To A Level Playing Field?

We’ve all heard people spouting recently about the forthcoming Financial Fairplay Regulations and how it’s going to change the face of football. 

Every time some big club makes a big name signing for a massive fee someone somewhere is guaranteed to utter the words ‘well they won’t be able to do that much longer, once these financial fair play rules kick in’.

But will the rules actually prevent the ‘money equals success’ formula many clubs seem to be peddling these days?

UEFA first devised the Financial Fairplay rules in September 2009 to try to ensure the sport’s well being.  It’s main remit is to prevent professional football clubs spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success, and in doing so prevent them getting into financial trouble which could ultimately threaten their long term existence.

The regulations make it necessary for all clubs to balance the books.  Clubs are obligated not to repeatedly spent more money than they generate.  As a result  the regulations are also supposed to prevent bigger clubs with extremely wealthy owners from gaining an unfair advantage.

Clubs that break the rules were initially going to be punished with transfer bans, fines and the withholding of prize money.  However after concerns about legal implications UEFA ultimately decided the penalty would be disqualification from European competition.

The football family as a whole has taken to the FFP regulations as anyone can see the possible benefits.  Not only will it prevent clubs with the biggest financial backing having a monopoly on success but as the FFP regulations do not cover any monies spent on infrastructure, one would assume that emphasis would turn to youth development.

Unfortunely  it seems although the idea is a good one UEFA seems to have let itself down on the implementation.   A series of loopholes seem to enable the legislation to be pretty much ignored by bigger clubs.  The biggest loophole seems to enable the financial heavyweights of the game to artificially inflate their income with massive sponsorship deals or stadium naming rights via companies with a vested interest in the club.

For example when Manchester City announced the renaming of their stadium to the Etihad stadium in a deal reportedly worth £340 million over ten years, questions were asked as Etihad Airways, who incidentally are also their shirt sponsor, is owned by the government of  Abu Dhabi,which is ruled by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the half brother of City owner Sheikh Mansour.

Another way for clubs to get around the regulations is to increase stadium capacity to increase revenue from match days, as investment in infrastructure is exempt from FFP regulations.  Chelsea recently tried to use this at Stamford Bridge unsuccessfully as the ground is not owned but rented from a large group of supporters.

It seems to me that if UEFA really wanted to then these loopholes could be closed and any clubs using them punished.  But one wonders whether UEFA has the stomach to follow through with it’s punishments.  Would it really be in it’s interest to prevent the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Barcelona et al from competing in European competition? I think not.

It seems to me that at the end of the day these regulations are going to adversely effect the very clubs it is there to protect.  Smaller clubs will no longer be able to challenge the ‘established order’ by making short term cash injections to win trophies and in-turn raise their profile, support and income levels.

It seems despite all UEFA’s good intentions the rich will continue to prosper and the poor will stay down with even less chance to compete with the big boys.

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