Financial Fair Play: Fines, Caps and Squad Restrictions.

Published: May 07, 2014 12:09pm EDT
By Jason Bardwell, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated May 07, 2014 @ 12:09pm EDT

 

I had written a couple of weeks ago about Michel Platini’s Financial Fair Play rule, which came into force this season. At that time the fines, sanctions and sporting punishments were not clear, although we could probably all hazard a guess as to who would be the top two violators of the rule.


Sure enough Manchester City in England and Paris St Germain in France were named as the biggest rogues and reports are that the repercussions are also massive. It seems that, as this goes to print, PSG may have settled on the sanctions but Manchester City are still looking at their options. Reportedly the sanctions are quite similar for the two clubs and that means close to an $85 million fine, a salary cap on the Champions League squad (meaning it cannot be higher than last season) and cutting the Champions League squad from the usual 25 to 21. 

Now supporters of the rule, and people who argue for a level playing field may applaud this and if it achieved a level of fair play then I would also raise a glass to Mr Platini and his guys at UEFA. But it doesn’t, not even close.

 

LEGALITY:

At the moment a Belgium lawyer is arguing his case that the rules of Financial Fair Play violates EU law and that it handicaps football clubs more than other business, which essentially they are. It places restrictions on the investments each club wishes to make, limits competition and keeps the elite clubs already in the Champions League for years, untouchable. It seems funny that Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovic, who has already burnt through more money than City is for this. It makes his hand stronger and he is not subject to the sanctions, not because Chelsea went about it differently, but they went about it five years earlier. 

The new law also dictates to the club how many transfers they can make, the fees paid for these transfers and the number of players under contract at a club. This, he argues, will have a detrimental impact on the salaries a player can expect and therefore violates the European freedom of movement. 

This was the same lawyer who fought for the Bosman ruling which allowed players out of contract to negotiate their own moves away from a club with the club he is departing receiving no transfer fee. He certainly has form with upsetting the UEFA band of brothers but we should not expect a decision from the European Commission until early 2015.

 

FINES:

I understand that the fines have to be big just because of the nature of the clubs and depths of the owners pockets. However I look at the fines given to clubs and nations over racist chants and behavior and you have to wonder if UEFA’s priorities are correct. 

In recent years UEFA have fined Serbia, Lazio, FC Porto, Croatia, along with the Spanish and Russian FA a total of $412,000. Not even half a million dollars for all those violations but is that a surprise? 

In 2006 Juventus were found guilty of match fixing and even for that violation the fine was $510,000. That must have stung Platini who had to issue the fine to his former club, and yet they were soon back and winning titles again, including this seasons. At UEFA their motto is ‘We Care About Football’ but I am not sure that is entirely true or the sanctions for the previous mentioned blatant cheating should surely have been much harsher, right?

In fact do you want to know, prior to the current ones, what one of the biggest fines was for and who it was issued to? Nicklas Bendtner was fined $136,000 for showing a sponsors name on the band of his underwear. So with the skewed priorities on fines should UEFA change their motto from ‘football’ to something else?

So the message UEFA is sending? With the fines issued for the various offenses I think that racist chants will get a wagging finger and match fixing a hearty slap. Meanwhile promoting a non authorized sponsor on your own person is subject to an old style beating in a back alleyway and trying to better your product, invest in your future is a firing squad. 

 

FAIR PLAY:

UEFA says that they are doing this just because you cannot buy your way to success. However it has been proven that buying the best players do not automatically deliver you continued success. Manchester City have fought for both the title they won in 2012 and the one they are on course for this season. Other than that, one FA Cup won by the single goal against Stoke City and one FA Cup Final lost to Wigan. 

Now they have had three seasons in the Champions League and only this season did they get out of the Group stage. It is a club progressing and that progression is being halted right now by the very people who purport to encourage competition. 

In 2001 the Champions League prize money was over $960 million. 72% of that was shared between the clubs, who obviously also had gate money and the extra merchandise sold.  
That is a lot of money for a very few clubs who are there year in and year out and for that reason you can understand why new entities are met with hostilities. 

 

TWO FACED GOVERNING BODIES:

Michel Platini is not opposed to dishing out punishments to his former club. The look at the Juventus punishment for match fixing proves that, although not all that harsh, he can lay in the same bed with those he disapproves of. It is widely accepted that Platini dislikes the English sides but what is more surprising is the fact that he has a close relationship with Qatar. 
In a 2013 interview in the Guardian newspaper, Platini stated that ‘economical and political influences’ were a factor for the European voters to give Qatar the 2022 World Cup. In a German paper Sepp Blatter himself said that ‘European leaders recommended to its voting members to opt for Qatar, because of major economic interests in the country’. 

Not helping the transparancy is the fact that Platini’s son, Laurent Platini, now works for the Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) company. FIFA had issues with corruption which has a far more reaching impact on the fair play of the worlds game and questions raised about the legitimacy and integrity of the very people in charge of overseeing fairness. That cannot be good.

 

WRONG TARGETS:

If UEFA were serious on targeting the clubs and owners who were detrimental to the European soccer scene then surely owners like the Glaziers at Manchester United who are servicing their personal debts from the clubs revenue. Or the owners who mined clubs like Portsmouth and Birmingham City before leaving them dry and a shell of their former selves? Where are the fines for those guys? 

Instead of the guys who take from the sport UEFA are targeting the guys who are giving to the sport and making lesser clubs more competitive. For Manchester City in particular the redevelopment of the club and building of the new World class academy, is heading in the right direction in both finances and competitiveness and provides so much for the local scene. These are the guys UEFA target as bad for the sport? 

Surely having more debt at your club than you can manage is worse for the game than someone coming in and investing in making the club better with their own money. Once again UEFA’s motto is ‘We Care About Football’ but I do not think that really can be the case because if they did then they would care about more teams being competitive. They would care about the amount of debt clubs carried with them and they would care about match fixing bans being much more severe than the ones issued and they would certainly not award major tournaments to the same associations they had just given punitive fines to for racism. 

When new rules come out I would think it would be made clear what punishments would be issued for what offences but things are still unclear as to exactly what the specific punishment would be for the severity of the offense. It also doesn’t state what will happen to the fines when and if they are paid?  

It looks as though PSG have agreed on the sanctions but Manchester City are yet to yield. If they go past the Friday deadline then it will go to a non negotiable adjudication panel. When they pass judgement it could be much more severe than the sanctions currently faced and if the club still are not happy then they could go to the European Court of Arbitration for Sport. This whole storyline will take a number of months to reach its conclusion and a whole bunch of money. It is unclear as to if Manchester City will fight it but if they do then it will certainly set a precedent but at what cost? The financial cost, of course, but also it is unclear if any sanctions would be suspended during any case or if they would still be implemented. It is certain that UEFA think their rules will pass any test in court and Manchester City had said they didn’t think they would fall foul of them. It will certainly be interesting to see who backs down first. 

 


 

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