Spotlight on Financial Fair Play in Football: Is Uefa really about to allow financial fair play offenders off with fine?

 
Frank Dalleres
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Frank Dalleres tries to answer the key questions around imminent decisions

FINANCIAL Fair Play is a sham, right? Years of posturing by Uefa are set to amount to little more than a few fines for financial behemoths. That is the accusation being levelled at European football’s governing body, at any rate, as it prepares to deliver the first punishments of its much-trumpeted regulatory mechanism. Will Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain escape with mere financial slaps on the wrist if found guilty? That, and other questions, are tackled here.

WHAT’S THE POINT OF FFP IF CLUBS THAT FLOUT RULES ONLY END UP WITH FINES?
Fines would indeed appear to be little deterrent to super-rich clubs, and perhaps even tantamount to encouragement to repeatedly ignore the rules, though the situation is considerably more nuanced. The settlement offers being made to offending clubs, while likely to be more lenient in order to encourage clubs to accept, incorporate not just fines and the withholding of centrally distributed Uefa cash but also several possible competitive sanctions – see right – so the notion that clubs are only to be fined is far from certain.

SO WHAT PUNISHMENTS COULD OFFENDING CLUBS BE OFFERED AS A SETTLEMENT?
It would be illogical for Uefa to offer clubs the harshest measures as settlements – clubs would simply reject and take their chances that the Club Financial Control Body’s adjudicatory chamber, which rubber-stamps FFP decisions, would take a more lenient view. So the two toughest punishments – being stripped of European titles and being banned from the Champions League or Europa League – can probably be discounted. But that still leaves the following possible sanctions as part of settlements: a limit on the size of the squad clubs may register for European competitions (it has been suggested that PSG’s settlement may include their Champions League squad being restricted to 20 players rather than the usual 25); a block on fielding new signings in European competition (weakening teams and also making them less attractive destinations for top players); and the deduction of points, for instance at next season’s Champions League group stage. These three punishments are among the middle range of nine possible sanctions listed in Uefa’s rulebook. It should also be noted that any settlements are likely to be predicated on clubs adhering to FFP rules, or perhaps even tougher limits, in future seasons. Failure to do so would carry the threat of tougher action.

DOES THAT MEAN CLUBS WON’T BE BANNED THEN?
Bans look unlikely for two reasons: they are useless as settlements and Uefa would rather settle than endure a long legal row that lasts throughout the summer, and because Uefa president Michel Platini, the godfather of FFP, has indicated so. But that is not to say bans are impossible. If clubs reject their settlement offers and opt to argue the case they could find the CFCB adjudicatory chamber, which is meant to be independent to Uefa, less sympathetic. Also, a club that feels it has missed out on European qualification (say Everton or Manchester United) because one of its rivals who broke FFP rules (say Manchester City) was not banned has the option of mounting a formal challenge and petitioning for a ban.