Football’s finances have long needed a rethink. Clubs are incredibly valuable assets to supporters and communities. They need sustainable long-term stewardship, not a system of casino economics, rampant insolvency and a dependency on the whims of a super-wealthy elite. This can only be achieved through strong independent regulation that includes financial fair play (FFP). FFP will introduce more rationality into club finances, encourage investment, and reduce reliance on debt and benefaction. These advantages far outweigh the one supposed disadvantage – the possibility of securing big club success. There is a lack of evidence to support this theory (look at the outcomes in the German Bundesliga, for example), and there are other ways of improving competitive balance if necessary, like a more even distribution of the game’s wealth. Implementing that alongside FFP really would be progress.
David Lampitt is chief executive of Supporters Direct.
Financial fair play is really two things: a rule saying that clubs must be solvent and pay their debts, and a rule that says that “football expenditure” must be less than “football income”. The first rule is a basic principle for running any sound commercial organisation – no problem there. But the second rule protects the interests of big clubs by limiting the opportunity of smaller clubs to invest in a competitive team. The rule is targeted at the “sugar daddies”, but they are not the cause of the insolvency problems in European football and have in fact brought billions into the game and made it more attractive. The rule will limit competition on the pitch and may be illegal, as it restricts competition for players without bringing any benefit to the fans. Worse still, in the longer term it could drive the best players to sign for clubs in China and the Gulf.
Stefan Szymanski is professor of sport management at the University of Michigan. www.soccernomics-agency.com