KEIR RADNEDGE in PRAGUE: Slightly more carrot, slightly less stick is the offer to European competitions clubs sent out by UEFA in developing a more user-friendly version of financial fair play.
But speculation that the break-even limits would be eased by the European federation’s executive committee proved not merely wide of the mark but incorrect.
This may irk the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain but will please the majority of clubs suspicious of the power of the game’s nouveaux riches.
UEFA’s progression has not been affected by the reference of FFP to the European Court of Justice by a Belgian judge. The due appeal, according to UEFA, suspended the judgment and left it free to carry on as if nothing had happened.
One of the pillars of UEFA faith in its own case is that, from president Michel Platini and general secretary Gianni Infantino on down, it can demonstrate remarkable results from by far its most ambitious creation.
Football finance, courtesy of the game’s popularity fuelling broadcasting fee expansion, has largely bucked the general economic trend of the last few years. But that has not lulled UEFA into a false sense of security since the effect of FFP has been spectacular.
The four years of FFP have enforced a 70pc drop in aggregate losses, a drop from 10 to three clubs with €50m-plus losses, a dramatic decline in transfer cash debt, a a slight fall in the budgetary percentage of wages (64pc to 62pc) plus increasing acceleration in revenue compared with pay.
Infantino said: “It’s great news for the image of FFP that is has clearly achieved its goal. It’s been a great success. There’s been a tremendous reduction in losses and an increase in responsible financial behaviour.
“It’s now in the heads of everyone in football that we need to respect financial fair play.”
Infantino, emphasising a change of emphasis from “austerity to growth” indicated a technical change in regulations which would allow for greater investment by clubs in youth and women’s football.
He dismissed fears that FFP shackled clubs into their fixed ‘classes’, the so-called ‘ossification factor,’ saying: “This was all noise not proved in practice.” He hoped the regulation amendments would encourage new investors to enter the club world.
A significant development is that clubs undertaking a change of ownership or development of a new business plan can take the initiative and seek a voluntary settlement agreement. This opens the door to new business plans and frees them from penalties albeit while committing them to a sharper level of oversight.
Currently 19 clubs are working their way through enforced settlement agreements. Santions such as fines and squad limits have been imposed on the likes of Manchester City, PSG, Internazionale and Roma for breaking the rules.
Platini is satisfied with progress.
He said: “The new regulations are an expansion and a strengthening of financial fair play. The overall objectives remain the same. We are just evolving from a period of austerity to one where we can offer more opportunities for sustainable growth and development.”
The adjustments were welcomed by the European Club Association which has been among the organisations involved in a consultation over the last two years.
ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described the update as “perfectly in line with the FFP principles” and urged clubs to “keep on supporting the financial fair play system and to work within the framework of the new rules.”
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