PARIS/NYON: European federation president Michel Platini has followed up a concept raised last summer that no clubs will face immediate suspension from European competition this year under financial fair play writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Last August the high-profile draws for the group stages of the Champions League and the Europa League risked being thrown into chaos by suspensions appeals launched by Turkish clubs Fenerbahe and Besiktas in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Only on the eve of the draws was UEFA relieved to learn that CAS had come down on its own side. At the time both Platini and general secretary Gianni Infantino told a media briefing that FFP sanctions might be held over a year in future to avert such uncertainty.
Platini has firmed up this this possibility in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien ahead of next month’s announcement of the first FFP sanctions. More serious cases will be judged in June.
He said: “There will be some tough things … but if you are expecting blood and tears and you will be disappointed. There will be some significant sanctions but no immediate exclusions from next season’s European competition.”
However he insisted that UEFA intended being tough – “we will go right to the limit on this.” The most severe punishment available would be European competition suspension.
Last August, in Monte Carlo, Platini told this writer: “It was a tough summer, a bit complicated between disciplinary committee appeal procedures, CAS and all sorts of things. Clubs were playing, not playing then playing again. The legal department did not spent much time on the beach this summer, rather more in the courtroom.”
He conceded: “We could suspend a team for the following year instead of keeping it from starting in the current season. It is a political question. I have my views, Gianni Infantino [general secretary] has his view, the disciplinary commission people have their dissenting views.
“But it is bothersome when you have [these issues around] a draw and this is bad for UEFA’s image as well.”**
A UEFA panel is currently negotiating settlements with clubs which have breached rules designed to curb huge investments by owners and excessive spending on transfers and wages since 2011.
UEFA said in February it targeted 76 clubs which played in the Champions League or Europa League.
Speculation focused on big spenders Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, which are owned by the ruling families of Qatar and Abu Dhabi, respectively.
Platini said he was “not sure” if Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain’s “innovative” sponsorship deal with Qatar Tourism Authority played by the rules.
UEFA is concerned that clubs could try to balance their finances using inflated value deals with sponsors linked to club owners. Man City’s main sponsor is Abu Dhabi airline Etihad.
“Let’s say simply that the economic model of PSG is special and atypical,” Platini said. “These are questions that the experts must decide.”
UEFA appointed former Belgium prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene to lead the panel investigating club accounts. Serious sanctions will be decided by a panel led by Jose Cunha Rodrigues of Portugal, a judge at the European Court of Justice.
Expulsion from the Champions League and second-tier Europa League are the toughest penalty UEFA reserves. First and lesser offenders will likely face fines and sanctions such as limits on registering players for UEFA competitions.
** See: http://tinyurl.com/ka5jho3
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