UEFA President Michel Platini’s pet Financial Fair Play (FFP) project has this week reportedly been responsible for a £50 million fine directed towards Manchester City. Platini and his cohorts are determined to make FFP the cornerstone of the former France international and Juventus great’s administrative legacy to European club football.
The problem though is that FFP does little to actually solve the financial issues plaguing the game and has coincided with UEFA taking its eye off the ball on several other, perhaps more serious, matters impacting the sport. Instead of FFP, here are some of the things that UEFA could be working on.
• Racism/homophobia and match fixing,
• Stopping speculators from buying soccer clubs, and
• Working to eliminate the heavy debt burden several clubs throughout the continent carry.
FFP was ostensibly erected in the wake of the collapse of Fiorentina and Leeds United’s slide into oblivion as a way of helping clubs help themselves. However the measures have done little to alleviate the near financial collapse of several soccer clubs in top European countries while morphing into a measure designed to protect the existing hegemony of the continent’s top clubs. I could explain how this works but will leave it to the one only Martin Samuel who wrote this in the Daily Mail three years ago
“Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, is believed to be among those protesting against the Manchester City (sponsorship) deal behind the scenes, but he has vested interests on several fronts.
“Right now, there is a significant rift between the clubs over Germany defender Boateng: Munich have offered £12m, City want nearer £20m. ‘City demand a price which is not realistic,’ Rummenigge says.
“So now you see how it works. The big clubs want City’s sponsorship by Etihad suppressed, but also wish to steal their players on the cheap. So City get gypped two ways – it is almost as if the clubs are scared of their capacity to generate money.
“As chairman of the European Club Association, Rummenigge rarely misses a chance to raise an issue happily to Bayern Munich’s advantage, and this is no exception. Not satisfied with Munich’s immense wealth and standing in the domestic and European game – which will only be further cemented by the financial fair play rule – Rummenigge wishes to take out all interlopers, too.”
Manchester City has bankrolled new money in football that has helped countless other clubs in terms of transfer fees trickling down the leagues. This is a net gain for the sport. The building of a new training facility and campus in a rundown part of East Manchester is the type of community investment few of the bigger clubs partake in this day and age. Instead of pilling debt on to the books, Manchester City is investing in the local area and in soccer while not making some bankers a commission in the process. Perhaps this is an issue?
In the case of PSG, UEFA has to feel that having a strong anchor club in one of the most desirable and visible global cities are a positive for the sport. A strong Paris presence in club soccer enhances UEFA’s ability to market the sport and its competitions. Yet for some reason this logic has been completely lost on the authorities.
FFP also strongly discriminates against clubs from working class areas. I hear time and again about how Newcastle United gets 60,000 fans a match and they should be able to compete with Arsenal. But under FFP, Arsenal who derives much of their fan base from a much more affluent area than Newcastle, has the ability to spend much more than Newcastle based simply on ticket and commercial revenues. Newcastle, or Sunderland or Aston Villa or Wolves can never charge as much for tickets as most of the London clubs.
This leads me back to Manchester City who has the lowest season ticket price in the Premier League this season. Were the club serious about complying with Platini’s doctrine, the owners could double ticket prices, show more revenue and abandon the people who supported the club for years while in the wilderness. Perhaps that is what Platini and his charges at UEFA want? People’s clubs ultimately becoming corporate clubs on the Bayern Munich model.
As for me, soccer should always be about the people.