Football’s big spenders risk transfer ban

EUROPEAN football clubs could be banned from making transfers or have prize money withheld if they fail to meet Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, they were warned yesterday.

Governing body Uefa clarified the range of sanctions at the annual congress of the European Club Association (ECA), which represents 200 leading teams, in Geneva.

Uefa has the power to exclude persistent offenders from all European competition but is keen to have a variety of punishments at its disposal.

“This will give the push that some clubs need,” said Inter Milan chief executive Ernesto Paolillo. “It’s good Uefa is thinking penalties that fit the crime better than the usual sporting sanctions.”

It comes amid concerns that few clubs are bringing their business models into line with FFP, which has come into effect this season.

The rules state that losses must not exceed £40m over a rolling three-year period, with that amount decreasing over time in a bid to make clubs break even.

But this summer saw teams in England, Spain, Italy and France spend far more than last year, to the puzzlement of football finance experts.

“Always buying, buying, buying isn’t rational,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, ECA chairman and chief executive of Bayern Munich.

“We unanimously signed up to FFP in 2009 and we are ready for it now. The ECA will help clubs meet the criteria, it’s an obligation.”

Paolillo added: “Football clubs understand rules, so we wanted to hear more about the penalties.”

Uefa finds itself under pressure to show it is serious about FFP, as questions are raised about whether clubs will fall into line – or even break away and form a rival European league.

Manchester City, who are themselves ECA members, have attracted attention with their lavish spending and enormous losses. Other English ECA members include Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

• Uefa devised FFP rules in an attempt to make clubs live within their means and reduce number of teams in debt

• FFP rules state that losses for the three-year period starting 2011-12 and ending 2013-14 must not exceed £40m

• Maximum losses permitted will shrink to less than £10m over three years by 2018 – or one fifth of a Torres

• Spending on transfers and wages is key – money spent on stadia, training facilities, youth set-ups and scouting is exempt from the calculation