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Will Fining Clubs Under Financial Fair Play Make The Billionaire Owners To Play Fairly?

Tuesday 6th May 2014
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the only two clubs of around 20 that have been named and shamed for breaching the rules of financial fair play. UEFA claim the two clubs have gone over the €45mn loss threshold, which takes into account the losses of each club over the past two football calendars. Now this isn't much of a surprise, both clubs are new to billionaire bankrolling, they've spent a lot on players in a short period and they have relatively small fanbases compared, so it's difficult to recoup the money that they've spent.

But nevertheless they've broken some “important” rules, which have supposedly been put in place to protect clubs from gambling with their finances. We all heard when FFP was put into place that the rule breakers would face “serious punishments”; Champions League exclusions and transfer embargos were said to be those punishments. So here we are, City and PSG plus 20 other unnamed clubs have breached the rules of FFP, punishment is pending, but which punishment will it be, lets have a look at the possibilities before I share with you the ludicrous one UEFA have decided to impose. Champions League exclusions would shatter the ambitions of both clubs who certainly see European domination as a very real prospect, and the way they're both going it is. A transfer embargo might not be so bad, sure it would dent their ambitions slightly but both clubs have world-class players in most positions anyway. Many of the world-class players required to reach the very top are already at both clubs, it's the refining that needs doing now.

Those were the punishments thrown around to scare everyone into thinking UEFA was taking FFP seriously, which shocked a lot of people because when have UEFA ever taken anything seriously? Well it's been revealed that Man City and PSG, who are two of the richest clubs in the world, are going to be fined in the region of £50m and to have player restrictions in next seasons Champions League although this is not yet been confirmed as to how many players they would be reduced to. A final decision is expected on Friday 9th May after a "settlement" with UEFA.

Where does the money go? Probably funding UEFA's Christmas party. Financial Fair Play is a very serious thing, nobody wants to see another club go the same way as Portsmouth, but UEFA are just making a mockery of the whole thing. So much so that nobody will end up taking it seriously if the harshest sanctions are going to be fines, which will just be loose change to billionaires. The more lenient UEFA is the more rule breakers there will be.

There are already enough FFP haters out there and this is only going to add fuel to their fire. FFP has and will continue to stunt the growth of football clubs, will we every see a club emerge the same way Chelsea and City did? It's very unlikely now that FFP has made it very difficult for rich investors to inject their own money into a club. The Premier League was a monopoly before Chelsea and City emerged, Arsenal and Man United had shared the spoils of the most lucrative football division for too long; the “new money” clubs made the league exciting again. The danger is that the league becomes predictable again, obviously there is a bit more variation as to who could win the league but a sensible person would predict the top four to be the four richest clubs in the league each season. There's been a slight shake up this season with Liverpool's emergence and Man United decline but that should be classed as more of an anomaly than anything.

It could be argued that Financial Fair Play has come into the game much too late. The damage started back when the Premier League was formed and the real money started to pour into the game. Those teams that were successful in those days were rewarded massively and therefore could start the trend of paying huge transfer and wage fees. Clubs just could not compete, look at Blackburn and Leeds United; both took huge financial risks in the pursuit of success. It paid off for Rovers for one season, and Leeds, well it was arguably the worst decision the club's owners ever made. Had a wage and transfer cap been deployed at the birth of the Premier League the whole of English football would be much more stable.

What FFP is now doing is maintaining the status quo; it's making sure that there is always a gap between the rich and the poor. David Conn admits this is a worry:

“If clubs are no longer permitted to rely on owners putting money in, then those who make the most income without owners' help could become even more inevitable winners of the game's prizes.”

As previously mentioned the middle ground and lower ground clubs will struggle tremendously to ever become anything other than that under this new legislation. Their owners wont be able to pump money in to invest in better players, higher wages or improvements in infrastructure because they will most certainly always be in breach of FFP's regulations. No rich Arab or billionaire oil merchant will be sniffing around to buy a Premier League club anytime soon because UEFA have made it ridiculously difficult for these clubs to expand. In my opinion clubs need some level of inorganic growth until they can achieve organic growth in this day and age. Otherwise lesser clubs will be stuck with the same average playing budget, buying the same average players and finishing in the same average position every season.
Alex Dodd
Second year Sports Journalism student at Staffs Uni, lover of all things football, cycling enthusiast, gadget hoarder, gym goer and terrible cook. Family originate from Manchester but grew up in Portsmouth, somehow got roped into supporting both, best of both worlds I guess.

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