A FANS’ group which has brought a legal challenge against European football’s financial fair play (FFP) rules has urged governing body Uefa to use an imminent re-think of the controversial regulations to scrap all restrictions on club owners bankrolling increases in spending.
The supporters believe their claim, launched in Paris last month, was a contributing factor to Uefa this week announcing it is likely to relax the rules, which currently prevent shareholders from subsidising losses of more than €10m (£7.1m) a year, at the end of this season.
Lawyer Francois Brunet, who represents an alliance of around 150 Paris Saint-Germain fans, told City A.M. that the group might consider dropping its action, which argues that FFP infringes European Union law by restricting competition, if Uefa’s changes prove drastic enough.
But he added that their ultimate goal was for clubs to be permitted to spend freely on signing players, if funded by shareholders or owners – a move that would appear likely to help teams with super-rich benefactors, such as PSG, Manchester City and, potentially, Chelsea.
“The main change they expect to be made is the rights of shareholders to inject as much capital as they wish, and that such injected capital be spent the way the club wants it to be spent, including on player recruitment,” said Brunet, of law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP.
“Prohibiting capital injections makes no sense from an economic standpoint. There is no industry that prohibits companies from getting money from shareholders to grow its business in a free market economy.
“I think some of my clients may decide to drop the legal action if the changes are sufficient. But I cannot speak on their behalf. We have to see what Uefa proposes, we’ll have to report those proposals to our clients, and we’ll see.”
Brunet said the fans’ group might also be in favour of introducing rules to limit clubs’ debt to 30 or 40 per cent of the value of their assets, as a means of ensuring FFP continues to protect teams from bankruptcy.
Belgian football agent Daniel Striani was the first to mount a legal challenge against FFP last year. Other complaints have followed and remain unresolved, and Brunet believes that pressure – and his case, which he says was 10 months in the planning – helped persuade Uefa president Michel Platini to reconsider the rules.
“We launched it three weeks ago. Platini has announced that some changes will be made, so we have the impression that this is a direct consequence of our legal action,” he said.
Current FFP rules threaten clubs with expulsion from the Champions League and Europa League if their losses, save for some excepted costs, exceed €30m (£21.7m) over a three-year period.
Manchester City received a financial penalty of up to £49m as well as spending restrictions and a reduced squad size 12 months ago after their losses were held to be too large. French champions PSG were hit with a similar sanction.