You can picture it now: Michel Platini taking a few practise swings with his new Thor-like hammer; the letters “FFP” emblazoned across the side of it.
Does this summer represent the last chance for clubs to indulge in the heavy spending that has become part of football over the past decade? Or will Platini be forced to keep his hammer from seeing the light of day by forceful club owners?
It’s hard to imagine football without reckless spending. Even if Uefa do follow through with their plans for Financial Fair Play, you’d still expect there to be a few big signings flying about. But on the other hand, Michel Platini’s reputation is on the line here. He and Uefa have been heavily persistent that this new model will be implemented and enforced with an iron fist.
A level playing field and the opportunity for every club at some stage to really have a crack at a league title is a good idea. The American leagues thrive off that sort of rotation in competition. In the past five years there have been five different winners of the World Series, four different Super Bowl champions, and five different Stanley Cup winners. Salary caps are in place to enforce a similar ruling to what Uefa are advocating, and teams are forced, for the most part, to build their squads through draft systems.
Sure there’s money flying around in the form of monster contracts, but the transfer fees that are involved in football, coupled with the contracts, help to create a greater disparity between those at the top and bottom.
With the new rulings in place, would we see less outside investment in football teams? Probably. After all, most investors don’t pick up football teams to sit around waiting years for a team to slowly, patiently, and according to the rules, build their potential title winning squads. They speed up the process through the strength of their chequebook.
For the most part, none of them are fans of their football club. They either buy into the club to make a profit somewhere down the line, or, in the case of one or two in the minority, have so much money that the club is their own real life Football Manager.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? You build an empire or a footballing dynasty through investment in the transfer market. Clubs like Ajax, who make excellent use of their youth academy, aren’t going to be super powers in European football any time soon. And even Barcelona, who follow a similar ideals, have splashed big in the market.
In many ways it would be great to have a more level playing field across European football, but isn’t it still a bit of a romantic idea? How long will it take teams at the bottom of the food chain to catch up with those at the top?
The Bundesliga is an excellent benchmark where clubs look to balance their books more efficiently. They don’t indulge in big spending like the rest of their European counterparts do. For the most part, clubs are owned by fans who take up 51 per cent of the club and, in turn, block investors from taking over the way they do elsewhere.
A fee paid of around £15 million for Marco Reus by Borussia Dortmund is seen as one of the larger fees from a German perspective. In countries such as England and Spain, it’s the norm for a fee like that to exchange hands.
Germany is a good example of where FFP is in effect to a degree. The league have shown that there is a possibility to remain competitive across the board instead of limiting it to a few clubs, and the national team have been able to thrive off the success of clubs’ youth academies.
The thing about this Financial Fair Play is that you’d like to see it in practice before you can definitively say how much of an impact it will have. The idea is great, but there’s still too much in football weighing it down.
The big-money transfer, for example, could still be sanctioned without much fear of Uefa coming down on clubs. The spreading out of the transfer fee has always been the norm with clubs, so where a club pays £30 million for a player, that fee is split over the duration of the player’s contract. Coupled with the wages of that player, the total expense for that one transfer still totals to less than £30 million in one year.
It’s perhaps more a case of reckless spending which will see it’s final days. There will continue to be big spending because there are clubs who can legitimately afford it. But the case of spending £100 million for three or four players may be a little harder to disguise.