European football chiefs Uefa’s relaxing of financial fair play (FFP) rules is an admission that the initial regulations were “excessive and illegal”, according to the lawyer challenging them.
Read more: Uefa urged to scrap FFP limit on spending
From today, Uefa is easing FFP so that owners of clubs can invest heavily without penalty, so long as it is on a short-term basis and with a binding pledge to break even by some specified date.
It is a move designed to combat widespread criticism that FFP rules have prevented ambitious teams, such as Manchester City, from spending their way to greater success and the revenues that follow.
Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, who is representing agent Daniel Striani and City supporters in a challenge to FFP’s compatibility with European law in Brussels, has accused Uefa of backtracking.
“Uefa is simply moving from an entirely illegal rule to a rule that becomes a little bit less illegal,” he said. “In competition law, any excessive restriction of the freedom of enterprise is by definition illegal. With these amendments, Uefa is therefore fully confessing that the previous version of the rule was excessive and therefore illegal under competition law.”
City were hit with a £49m penalty, spending limits and squad restrictions for exceeding the €45m maximum permitted loss for 2011-13. French champions Paris Saint-Germain received similar sanctions.
They remain bound by restrictions agreed with Uefa last summer and, under the new rules, are not yet entitled to take advantage of the greater freedom to invest.
Dupont, who helped achieve the landmark Bosman ruling which in 1995 handed out-of-contract players freedom of movement, says that is unfair, and warned that it too could be challenged in court.
“We are particularly puzzled about the fact that, according to Uefa, some clubs will not immediately benefit from the adopted amendments,” he added. “At first sight, this is absolutely discriminatory. Our clients reserve the right to inject this issue into the proceedings.”
Dupont landed a blow last week when the Court of First Instance in Brussels ruled that Uefa should not implement a planned tightening of its allowable losses under FFP from €15m to €10m a year.
It also asked the European Court of Justice to examine whether FFP was by its nature illegal. Uefa appealed the decision, thus suspending the verdict, and insisted that it expects the Supreme Court to uphold FFP.
Summary of FFP changes
Clubs who intend to overspend can do so by seeking a voluntary agreement with Uefa, on condition they break even within a specified period.
Amendment is designed to allow failing teams who have been taken over to invest heavily in short term in order to grow revenue.
Does not apply to clubs subject to settlements, such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, until three years after those deals elapse.
Spending on women’s and youth football to be exempt from FFP calculations.