History shows financial fair play likely to have teeth, says expert

ONE of football finance’s leading experts has voiced his surprise at continued scepticism over the willingness of European chiefs Uefa to ban clubs if they break new financial fair play (FFP) rules.

Deloitte’s Dan Jones believes Uefa will see through its threat to issue a range of sanctions against teams whose losses exceed allowable FFP limits, and says chairmen who think otherwise are “very, very brave”.

“The thing that surprises me is people being very sceptical. Uefa have put so much political capital into this,” Jones, partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, told City A.M.

“One of the arguments I hear is that Uefa needs the clubs. I understand that, but equally no club is bigger than the competition. The Champions League has thrived without some very big clubs in the past – when the likes of Chelsea or Man City haven’t made the last 16. Liverpool haven’t been in it recently.

“Also there is a precedent for competitions taking a very hard line against clubs, who you would think were very important to them, for financial misdemeanours. You only have to look at Rangers [demoted three divisions in Scotland after going into administration]. Anyone who thinks, ‘We’ll be OK, we’ll get away with it’ is very, very brave.”

Doubts have been raised over the governing body’s ability to prevent clubs bypassing FFP rules by artificially increasing revenue with sponsorship deals from related but quasi-independent companies.

“The acid test is still to come but Uefa have been really clear on the rules, that they are serious, and about the range of sanctions available,” Jones added.

“What they haven’t said is, ‘If you commit this offence you will get this sanction’. That is smart. That gives them flexibility but hopefully acts as a deterrent.”

FFP places greater onus on clubs to generate income, and Jones’s warning comes as research from Deloitte published today reveals the world’s top 20 teams grew collective revenues last season by 10 per cent to €4.8bn (£4bn).

Real Madrid remain the richest club in the world and last year became the first outfit in world sport to record revenues of more than €500m (£420m), according to the Football Money League report.

Manchester City’s Premier League title win propelled them into the top 10 and closer to an unchanged top six, which includes Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Real and Barcelona look set to retain their stranglehold on the top two spots as long as La Liga clubs are allowed to negotiate their own broadcast deals, Jones said.