The Calm Before The FFP Storm in football?

Brace yourself for a turbulent few years as the imminent Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations gradually creep up on football’s elite. In a bid to ensure that clubs cannot exploit any loopholes it seems that all future revenue deals will be heavily scrutinised by an independent council. In the past few days Manchester City’s ‘significant’ sponsorship deal with Etihad has been declared as “an improper transaction” by a leading European body, who have warned UEFA to be vigilant in their endorsement of the new rules.

Arsene Wenger was first to criticise the financial implications of City’s agreement suggesting that it “gives us the message they [City] can get around it by doing what they want”. City’s £400m 10-year deal with Etihad comfortably surpasses Arsenal’s £90 million 15-year deal with rival airline Emirates, which has led many to suggest that clubs with simply bypass these new laws by convincing sponsors to pay well beyond the market price.

The latest report, compiled by the European Council’s Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media confirmed that this was a key element in ensuring the success of the FFP.

“In order to avoid improper transactions of this kind, Uefa should prohibit clubs from sponsoring themselves or using associated bodies to do so. There is also a need to monitor the ‘purchases’ of sponsors, who should not overpay for the rights they acquire.” (Independent)

The Eastlands outfit are by no means the only club to be accused of such dishonest practises. French giants PSG, who are now owned by one of the members of Qatar’s ruling family, recently announced a hefty sponsorship with the Qatar National Bank. Real Madrid’s decision to sell their training ground to city authorities for the princely sum of €400m has also been described as ‘state aid’, which clearly gives the club an unfair advantage.

UEFA has insisted that the punishment for failing to meet their new criteria could extend to the expulsion from their Champions and Europa League competitions. However, it is more likely that clubs will face fines at first, which strikes me as odd because surely that means they’ll be even further away from achieving the financial requirements. Monetary penalties don’t really have the desired impact, after all once it reaches an unimaginable figure it becomes just a number, UEFA should look into the possibility of deducting points or permanently reducing the income of those wrongdoers, as a way of highlighting the severity of such failings.

Burnley defender and current PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle has also outlined his concerns that clubs instinctual reaction to combat these measures will be to drastically cut the wage bill.

“A soft wage cap will see squad numbers trimmed down and players will filter down the league. In the transitional period as the rules are implemented, that may see an increasing number of players unattached or out of contract. It will also reduce the chance for players lower down the league to find new clubs and extend their contracts.” (Goal.com)

Despite this, it is believed that the FFP will not have any real impact on the wages of the games most prolific stars, as these players will be the ones that attract the interest of potential sponsors, broadcasters and effectively drive the supporters into the stands.

There has long been the underlying concern that the rich owners who constantly bankroll clubs will perceive the FFP regulations as their cue to exit. Under UEFA’s new rules clubs cannot rely on owner funding and so if they fail to adjust their lavish spending habits and suffer a drop in performance as a result, will the Premier League’s big clubs seem like such an attractive option for potential investors?

Arsenal fans will surely be eagerly anticipating the introduction of these rules, as their superior financial ethos will see them profit (in more ways than one) from this new level playing field. However, I can’t help but feel that whilst UEFA’s intentions are commendable, they’ll struggle to enforce such penalties with such a large number offenders, who at present are displaying little sign of changing their irresponsible ways.

Will the FPP regulations really impact the likes of Chelsea, United and City? Share your thoughts below or follow me on Twitter @theunusedsub

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