FOR CLUBS aspiring to compete in the Champions League, Uefa’s financial fair play (FFP) rules have reached their first monitoring hurdle and the offenders are now facing the imposition of sanctions. The rules embodied in a 90-page document are mired in complexity and open to accounting and legal interpretation.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both been fined after a brazen indifference to the rules and have shown their preparedness to spend whatever it takes to win.
Although FFP was intended to help clubs help themselves and to prevent a dive headlong into a financial abyss, the true intent was to penalise the rich. Applying socialist doctrine to a system where free market forces have reined unfettered was always going to be a challenge.
No doubt Michel Platini, the Uefa president, would have been content to think that the oil riches of Abu Dhabi, which were invested in Manchester City, could not be used to purchase favour and advantage in order to achieve success.
However, when the state of Qatar with a similar abundance of natural gas reserves followed suit by acquiring Paris Saint-Germain, the problems multiplied. Both clubs overspent sizeably and, while not incurring vast external debts, ostentatiously attempted to spend their way to the top of the European tree, apparently ignoring the consequences.
Monetary fines are meaningless to nations where money has a different value. In the case of Manchester City, its £50m fine absorbs approximately four hours of cashflow for Abu Dhabi. It remains to be seen whether Uefa will ever impose the only sanction that would really terrify one of the bigger clubs, which would be to be thrown out of the Champions League.
In my opinion, these rules are ultimately for the birds. They are still easy to get around; financial penalties are relatively meaningless for the richest and yet disqualification from the Champions League is virtually unenforceable and too seismic a deterrent.
The rules have introduced massive uncertainty but will not ultimately stick.
Platini's grand plan is destined for failure.