Uefa will ban clubs if it has to, says chief

SPOTLIGHT ON financial fair play in FOOTBALL

ONE OF Uefa’s top executives has told City A.M. that European football’s governing body will not shy away from banning clubs if they flout financial fair play (FFP) rules.

Karen Espelund, one of president Michael Platini’s 15 executive committee (ExCo) members, said Uefa “cannot say ‘A’ and not mean it”. The warning comes amid doubts over how effective Uefa’s rules will be and whether Platini is willing to suspend high-profile clubs who overspend.

“We are ready from the Uefa side to take the consequences if they don’t adapt to it,” Espelund, the first woman on Uefa’s ExCo, told City A.M.

“Hopefully we don’t have to but if they don’t comply with the regulations, that would be the last way – banning anyone. That would be the last resort because it is a dramatic decision. But Uefa cannot say ‘A’ and not mean it.”

Premier League champions Manchester City’s £97.9m loss last season means they are likely to exceed Uefa’s allowed limit of a €45m (£36.6m) loss for 2011-13.

City may avoid a ban from European competition because they have cut losses year-on-year, but Espelund said no clubs should expect preferential treatment.

“This is about sporting justice,” she added. “We cannot say one thing to Manchester United and another thing to Chelsea.”

Doubts have been raised over how effectively Uefa can assess the fairness of huge sponsorships – such as Abu Dhabi-backed City’s £400m deal with the country’s airline Etihad, which covers shirt branding, stadium naming rights and other elements – because there are few precedents for such multi-faceted contracts.

“We are confident in our own tools, but we have set up independent boards to handle this,” Espelund said. “We need experts in our discussions on this of course.”

This week leading City lawyer and advisor to several English clubs Nigel Boardman warned that top teams should beware that Uefa appears ready to make good on its threats to take a strong stance on FFP.

“Everything we have seen and heard thus far suggests that Uefa will continue to pursue the rigorous enforcement of financial fair play,” he wrote in City A.M.

Premier League clubs are expected to vote in favour of their own version of FFP, and possibly a cap on year-on-year wage bill increases, with a view to implementation as early as next season.