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Over the weekend, news finally emerged regarding Michel Platini’s plans for the financial regulation of European football. Many fans of Premier League football have perhaps misinterpreted the proposed plans as a means to curb the progress of Premier League football. However, arguably, Platini’s 60-page document appears sensible enough on the surface, and could give hope to the likes of Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham for example, as they struggle to compete with the financial might of Chelsea or Manchester City.
The basic premise of the proposals appear well intentioned, insofar as clubs should spend no more on wages or transfer fees, than they earn through television rights, gate receipts, and merchandising. However, whilst Sheikh Mansour would be unable to spend another £400m on new players for Manchester City in the future, there is no limit on what can be spent on a clubs infrastructure, which includes stadia, training facilities and youth development. Further, a ‘sugar daddy’ would be permitted to spend roughly £9m a year on his club from his own resources if he so wished.
Aside from curbing the influence of wealthy individuals, the regulations would bring an end to inflated wages, whilst also ensuring that clubs live within their means. The situation that Portsmouth have found themselves in this season for instance, could not happen under Platini’s guidelines.
The March 2010 Uefa Club Licensing paper should be implemented by the executive committee this summer. Obviously, clubs that are dependent on sugar daddies, and have players on long, expensive contracts, will have a weaning off period, with owners allowed to lose an initial ¤45 million over an initial three-year spell so long as they cover the loss themselves. By 2015, the maximum loss a club will be allowed to make over three years will be ¤30 million, again, provided this sum is paid off by the owner.
Whilst these measures have been met with scepticism by the media, with many supposed flaws too long and lengthy to deal with here, the basic premise of the March 2010 Uefa Club Licensing paper would see clubs with a large support and healthy turnover, compete with clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City in the future. For example, a club such as Arsenal, with a huge following, brand new stadium and excellent training and youth facilities, should technically be achieving better results than the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City. However, within two seasons of Abramovich moving to Chelsea, all the hard work Arsenal had put in behind the scenes had been rendered obsolete by the Russian’s billions. Further, whilst Manchester City are yet to challenge for the title, Sheikh Mansour’s wealth will ensure that, before long, the club will be able to spend their way to the top.
Whilst many will contend that Abramovich’s money brought competition to the Premier League after Manchester United and Arsenal had dominated for long periods, at least the Premier League’s top four will potentially be occupied by clubs deserving of the place, rather than a team such as Manchester City or Chelsea, who simply won a golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory after a rich owner thought he’d invest. For instance, surely few can contest that Everton, excellently led by David Moyes, do not deserve Champions League football over some of the free-loading clubs we currently have in the Premier League, with owners writing off massive loans, and turning it into equity? Platini’s regulations may be labelled too restrictive for those with a slightly more capitalistic tendency, but it might just bring about a sense of fair play to English football.
There are however, some obvious problems with the plans. For example, it is not as if there is a spending cap, and teams such as Manchester United in England, and Real Madrid in Spain, will remain dominant as their huge turnovers will still allow them to spend significant amounts on players. Further, smaller clubs such as Fulham and Wigan, who are propped up by Mohammed Al Fayed and Dave Whelan, could also be set to suffer. Other concerns include the added emphasis that will be added to ticket prices for fans as clubs seek to raise revenue, whilst achieving Champions League football will remain as crucial as ever.
The news coming from Switzerland is more than likely to become stuck in litigation, as the top clubs seek to slow down Uefa’s assault on the financial aspect of European football. However, most football fans should welcome the measures as an honest attempt to enforce common sense. Rich sugar daddies will no longer be able to come in and simply buy a title, whilst the events witnessed at Fratton Park this term will be confined to the past once and for all.
In all probability, the Premier League will probably not see a revolution in terms of a Newcastle United or Aston Villa challenging for the title any time soon. Further, the top clubs will still be there or there about, with Manchester City set to invest heavily before the measures are imposed. However, at least big clubs, with big support, will be able to reward their fans with the more competitive football they deserve. After all, the game is about the fans, and nobody wants to see another club come out of nowhere, and become the play-thing of another oligarch or oil tycoon.
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