Gabriel Marcotti writes about Financial Fair Play and the punishments UEFA can mete out in today’s Times and, though his analogy of punishing a child for beating their brother is a little stretched, he makes a lot of valid points.
By not laying out a plan of punishment, UEFA have left themselves in a bit of a tight spot in terms of what they’ll do next season, when FFP is due to come into force across Europe and should see an end to the ludicrous spending of teams beyond their means.
From a personal point of view, given that two of the worst offenders are rivalling Marseille in Ligue 1, it would be nice to Monaco and Paris SG having their wings clipped a little.
I just foresee problems with whatever method UEFA take. If they ban Monaco from the Champions League for their transfer dealings last summer because they make a loss of more than £38 million, then next summer, given their squad is strong enough to qualify again anyway, they can simply hold off from the ludicrous purchases, go again, qualify again and be fine.
The huge investment is only needed to attain the level of Champions League football from those well short of it – when building a squad. When adding to it, or tinkering with it, far fewer players are needed; thus far less ‘extra’ money needs to be spent.
If a team isn’t losing £38 million a year, then they’re fine. Doesn’t matter how they’ve put their squad together, so long as they don’t lose it that year. It almost makes sense for the oligarchs to take a second division team, inject billions of pounds into it, knowing that by the time they reach the Champions League, then the deficit they had putting the squad together won’t be included in their figures.
The reason we are coming into the era of FFP is because a number of currently rich teams want to retain their status. Its really that simple. Manchester United, Bayern München, Real Madrid, Juventus. All have huge fanbases from around the world and far from their own backyards. The more big teams there is, the thinner on the ground their fanbase will, inevitably, become.
Yes, for teams like Marseille, or even (for example) Liverpool or Ajax, who have established names and histories, there’s a possibility of one day eating at that top table again, but there’s very few teams who have that potential without considerable financial backing to, basically, gate-crash their way in.
Germany have taken action against that happening with their ownership model – to rival Bayern, teams will have to develop a club as big as Bayern. Dortmund seem a not-ludicrous suggestion towards doing it, but they’ll need another ten or twenty years of consistently bloodying the noses of not just Germany’s but Europe’s elite to really achieve that.
It does seem that the MO of the oligarchs is simply to find a side who are struggling (ideally one who has historically under-performed) for a while to ensure their value is low, then invest far more into the team than anyone else at a similar level can afford to do. Good news for Wolves fans, then.
You don’t become the best side in the world doing that (because the best players normally play FOR the best teams, not for teams trying to become the best) but you can get close enough to strike out at them, because there’s so few top-drawer teams.
Banning those teams from Europe for one year will mean nothing. Very rich people will not suffer enough from one year of
non-Champions-League football to withdraw funding if the carrot is still feasible in the future.
Ban them for five years, and it’s a very different story.
Five years is a large proportion of players’ careers, so they are unlikely to join these clubs in the first place knowing they are ineligible for the Champions League.
Five years is a huge amount of Champions League money to miss out on when domestic TV revenues are far smaller (and not being able to compete will remove some lustre from the club, too)
Five years would mean that teams could be established gradually; perhaps being edged along a little more than usual by rich owners, but not so that the club would go down the pan should they withdraw their funding.
There are few enough teams who are eligible for the Champions League (32 plus the qualifiers) that finances could be scrutinised by UEFA long before that point. Maybe have a sliding scale for the losses of one year – 1 year for teams who lose £40-50 million, 3 years for those who lose £50-70m and 5 years for £70m and above.
Obviously, that would run from the year of the losses, and add another year for every following year that they are accrued. Would it become harder to enter the elite that way? Perhaps it would, but for those clubs who are getting there gradually (like Dortmund, and as Arsenal have done – even Tottenham, balancing the Bale sale with their influx of overseas players), it would certainly ensure that if they came to the top table they would have the stability to stay there, which has to be UEFA’s priority.
Progression, development and strict punishments.
Of course, I know this won’t happen. UEFA get the same money whether its Monaco or Marseille in the Champions League – playing in front of 10,000 or 60,000.
Punishments like this are a pipe dream, but they would, I think do the job UEFA need doing.