Uefa’s financial fair play legislation has arrived. The limit on spending will come into effect for the 2013/14 campaign but the monitoring of teams has begun. Over the next two seasons clubs will not be allowed a total loss greater than €45 million and UEFA reserve the right to ban them from European club competitions should they overspend.
At face value, this seems like an excellent idea. The inflation of debt and spending is undoubtedly one of biggest problems of the modern game and it is high time rules were implemented. However, whether or not Uefa’s rules improve the game may be difficult to assess for several more seasons. Many people are sceptical as to whether this will in any way help the poorer clubs close the gap on Europe’s wealthiest. Whilst this would be an admirable result, it is not the point. The point is quite simply to stop clubs spending what they don’t have, to force them to live by their means.
A concern is that Uefa’s financial control will push Europe’s largest clubs towards forming their own breakaway league. At the moment there is little cause to worry.
For a start, the legislation is not as restrictive as many think. First of all, youth development, training facilities and stadiums are amongst the expenses that are not included. Second, if a club sign a player for £40 million on a four-year contract, this will amount to £10 million per year as the fee is spread over his contract, this means that the big clubs will still get to spend big money. Third, if a club can show that it’s on the field improvement is triggering off the field growth, their entry into European competition may be considered with more leniency.
These instances of flexibility and consideration show that Uefa has attempted to get this right. The intention is not to stifle clubs, just to protect them from their own recklessness. It should not be deemed a sufficient intrusion to prompt a revolution. (For those clubs that fear it may serve to level the the playing field, a quick look at Manchester City’s sponsorship deal will remind them of the gulf that exists and show them how it can be maintained.)
A breakaway European league is always talked about as though it is an imminent possibility but it would be a huge risk for the clubs involved. The sacrifice of teams’ domestic leagues and their dominance within them is something that requires careful consideration. Uefa’s attempts to slow down the crazy inflation of football debt should not serve as a trigger. Attempting to reel in the bank loans should, in theory, be welcomed. If, however, several years down the line the profits of the top clubs are affected, then a revolution would definitely be on the cards.
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