Financial fair play is dead, long live financial fair play! A little over ten years after its adoption, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is about to remodel this system which aims to limit club losses.
Often called into question, both by the big teams, who felt that it hindered their development, and by the “small ones”, who did not see how it contributed to the balance of competitions, this “FPF”, which wants ‘a club participating in European competitions should only take out of its pockets the money it has won, will be seriously revised. As revealed by New York TimesUEFA must adopt, Thursday, April 7, a relaxation of its regulations.
Until then, clubs participating in continental competitions – Champions League, Europa League and Europa League Conference – had to ensure their financial balance. Their losses were not to exceed 30 million euros over three years and be fully covered by their owners. From next season, the new regulations should double this authorized deficit (60 million euros), always on condition that the shareholder covers them.
At the same time, UEFA should adopt a semblance of a “salary cap”, a ceiling on the wage bill. By 2025, clubs will not be able to spend more than 70% of their income on salaries. The teams will have three years to reduce the airfoil, going to 90% in 2023, then to 80% the following year.
Already in place in Spain, this device has, for example, prevented this summer FC Barcelona, crippled with debt (1.3 billion euros), from extending its jewel Lionel Messi, now a Paris-Saint-Germain player. In the event of non-compliance with this new system, an arsenal of sanctions is envisaged, such as the withdrawal of points in the Champions League or a demotion in the Europa League.
Widely questioned and interpreted with flexibility by certain clubs, financial fair play saw its days numbered. In particular since July 2020, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest court in the world of sport, had authorized Manchester City on appeal to participate in European competitions despite an initial sentence of two years of suspension due to breaches of ” FPF”.
But the question of the economic control of clubs has not left the front of the stage, revived in particular by the desire for secession, in April 2021, of twelve of the biggest European clubs. Wanting a revolution for ‘save football’, the “super league” project was not aimed, strictly speaking, at getting rid of financial fair play. But by breaking away from UEFA, the rebel clubs would have been able to set their own rules.
A few months later, Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, took on the idea of reshaping financial fair play. “It works very well, but now we have to adapt to different times, modernize it with new tools”had declared, in June 2021, the leader of European football.
The wealthy advantaged
The global pandemic, and the abysmal losses it has caused in club finances – UEFA estimated the shortfall for European clubs in 2020 and 2021 at 7 billion euros in February – have also accelerated the discussions in order to change the regulations weighing on the clubs.
In his speech opening the general assembly of the Association of European Clubs (ECA), Monday, March 28, in Vienna, the president of Paris-Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, welcomed the adoption to come death “new rules, designed to ensure better cost control, while encouraging investments that will ensure the sustainable future of our sport in the long term”.
Mr. Al-Khelaïfi took the head of this body for almost a year, after the resignation of Andrea Agnelli, leader of Juventus Turin, following the attempted secession of the “super league”. And ECA has worked with UEFA to develop these “financial viability rules”, where the name “financial fair play” should be erased.
These changes are presented as virtuous. Still, they continue to benefit the richest clubs, rather than closing the gap. Starting with the English clubs, whose new system could strengthen their hegemony in continental competitions (like the last Champions League final, between Chelsea and Manchester City).
Boasting both football’s highest broadcasting rights and the resources of some of the wealthiest owners in the sport, Premier League clubs should have no trouble adapting to the new iteration, unlike some of their rivals, who have struggled to maintain fiscal discipline in their race to compete with the English – like heavily indebted FC Barcelona.