UEFA’s Financial Fair Play has good intentions and the European governing body intends to stand by their latest move. It said as much when the hammer came down on Malaga and a number of other clubs scattered around Europe for their outstanding debt. However, you have to ask whether UEFA would have taken the same action against teams with much higher standing in European football. At this stage, it looks as though UEFA were taking a stance over clubs who were big enough to get noticed but not big enough that they’d face a fiery backlash.
But can FFP really work with it’s current principles? Doesn’t it need a few added elements to make it seem like a legitimate move towards fair play?
At some point or another, the football world has to start taking pages out of the American sports book. Unfortunately, as fantastic as the draft system is in American—albeit with it’s own flaws—it simply wouldn’t work in the structure of European football. But what about salary caps? Doesn’t that play into UEFA’s stance of living within your means? And what about player trading rather than purchasing?
It’s probably a wacky idea that may seem as though it has no place in modern football. After all, how would dynasties form if clubs couldn’t buy their way to the top? But UEFA don’t want that, and yet it appears that Michel Platini’s group want the rich and powerful to stay rich and powerful, while the unattractive stay well away.
But how could player trades work? Well again, the American leagues seem to have it figured out. Would it put a halt to big clubs growing and staying at the top of the mountain? Well no not really. Smart clubs stay at the top. Well-run clubs stay at the top. Clubs who don’t make bad calls in transfer negotiations stay at the top.
I was laughed out of town (well it was more of a restaurant) for suggesting back in August that the Washington Redskins would do something impressive this season in the NFL. Prior to this season, I have never known the Redskins to be a successful or winning team. Their last NFL championship came back in the 1991 and it’s been a long time since they had a truly great quarterback. That did change this past summer when they traded three first-round picks to St. Louis for the right to pick second in the most recent draft, selecting Robert Griffin III. The Redskins have since beaten the New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants, and are currently in the postseason. I’d go as far as to say Robert Griffin III is one of the most spectacular athletes I’ve seen in all of sports.
There was no money involved in the trade; the Redskins didn’t stroll into the Rams’ HQ and slam a blank cheque down on the table. And as of this proposal to coincide with UEFA’s apparent desire, clubs like Manchester City or Chelsea wouldn’t be able to do that either.
But that’s just within the Premier League. As I said, it’s very difficult to follow the Americans’ rule book to the letter because of the difference in structure. It’s simply a proposal that states Premier League clubs, or La Liga, or Serie A clubs get something substantial back for their assets. Purchases can be made from foreign leagues, but player trading within one league would help in the matter of finances as well as helping to form a far more competitive league.
What if Manchester City have no one they wish to send over to Fulham in order to land their best player? Well the deal doesn’t go through. It’s an idea that would also help to lessen player power in the modern game and restrict bigger clubs bullying the selling club into submission.
Rick Nash moved from Columbus to the New York Rangers last summer because the Rangers had a package deal that suited Nash’s old team. Well that would be a stretch too far. The Rangers actually had a deal that was slightly better than what everyone else offered but was still well short of what Columbus initially wanted. The player wanted the move and he got it, showing that player power can never truly be eradicated from sports.
Columbus picked up two players who would help them out, as well as a prospect and a first round pick in the next draft. There’s no guarantee they’d move forward significantly, as other factors such as their market and management could have a different say. Similarly, following the Texas Rangers’ trade of Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves in 2007, the return package from Atlanta helped the Rangers to form a team which went to back-to-back World Series. They lost both, but that’s not the point.
At some point, more and more people in football are going to catch onto the idea that the numbers switching hands in transfers is taking it’s toll on the game. It’s not to say there won’t be big figures exchanged between two clubs from different leagues, but trading players within the same league is an idea that could be a benefit to every club and would also strengthen Financial Fair Play.