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New UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules Miss The Big Boys

Image by fcam from Flickr

UEFA has imposed its first financial fair play penalties: 23 clubs have had the pleasure of receiving a polite letter asking the respective clubs to make sure they sort out any misgivings around overdue tax, transfer payments, and wages.

The most notable clubs that have been given a deadline of the 30th September include Club Atletico de Madrid and Malaga CF of Spain, as well as Sporting Lisbon of Portugal and FC Rubin Kazan of Russia. Now let’s hope these clubs’ financial misgivings are nothing more than just sloppy administration (I doubt it, but am forever the optimist).

All teams competing in UEFA club competitions have been given the tall order of breaking even by next season. Now I don’t know if this is the start of this season’s crackdown or the end, but surprisingly there is not an EPL club in sight.

In the 2010/12 season the EPL clubs raked in a total of £2.3 billion but still managed to collectively come out £321 million down (Manchester City alone contributed with a £197-million loss). Surprisingly, only 14 of the 20 clubs support reigning in this outlandish spending.

The whole point of financial fair play is to bring some kind of level playing field to the most popular sport in the world. In theory there is nothing wrong with debt, if it’s manageable and doesn’t risk a club’s long-term health. Despite fair opposition to the Glazier family’s leverage buyout of Manchester United, the reds have still tasted success both on and off the pitch. The team have amassed two Champions League trophies and three EPL titles during this time, whilst also taking its commercial revenue to new heights.

Manchester United and Liverpool FC are keen supporters of the new financial fair play regulations, but to be honest I don’t know what frustrates me more, the fact the old boys are using the FFP regulations to restore the status quo, or the fact that City and Chelsea are not on President Michel Platini’s UEFA hit list.

The old boys already have the trusted brand and are successfully pushing it hard in the emerging soccer markets. Why would they like these former proletariats crashing their banquets? Ultimately they are self-serving snobs, not in it for the “good of the game.”

I then flash to how the City and Chelsea hierarchies are pushing up player fees and wages by negotiating transfers like Dr Evil demanding a ransom: “for Kaka I offer a hundred billions dollars, mwah ha ha.” The private wealth of the respective owners are creating a spectacular show (the climax to last season’s EPL for a neutral was breathtakingly incredible), but despite the razzmatazz, the harm they are causing is potentially immeasurable. It’s so frustrating that the bell of the billionaire’s playground is not ringing to bring this craziness to an end now.

Let’s hope there is more to come from the UEFA president; the 23 clubs all called out seem to need to answer for something. If, however, the flag bearers of irresponsible spending are somehow left unchecked, the FFP initiative will mean nothing.