Opponents of European football’s financial fair play (FFP) rules have received a boost after a Belgian court set a date to hear a legal challenge to the controversial regulations.
The challenge, brought by football agent Daniel Striani and supporters of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, is set to be heard on 26 and 27 February in the Court of First Instance in Brussels.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are two of the clubs most significantly affected by the rules. Both were fined £49m and hit with a raft of other sanctions last year after being found in breach of FFP’s break-even requirement, which caps the amount clubs are permitted to lose without being barred from European club football.
Striani and fans are being represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, one of the lawyers who secured the landmark Bosman ruling, which changed the landscape of the sport 20 years ago by granting freedom of movement to out-of-contract players. Dupont has argued that FFP rules infringe competition law and should therefore be declared illegal.
European football’s governing body Uefa insists it has support for FFP from the European Commission, which in October decided not to investigate Striani's case further.
Sports lawyer Daniel Geey, of Fieldfisher, told City A.M. that it may be more than a year before the case is resolved, citing the Portsmouth landlady who took on the Premier League over her use of satellite decoders to show live football intended for transmission abroad.
He said: “Domestic courts have the ability to hear such matters but if there are important and significant matters of European law, there is a good chance such questions will be referred to the European courts.
“Many would expect that any substantive hearing and subsequent judgment may take several months. Even so, with a reference to the European courts likely, this will likely delay proceedings significantly. This can be seen from the Murphy/QC Leisure decoder card case references which took over a year to be resolved at the national court level.”