Futile Financial Fair Play

Financial Fair Play – when it was first formulated and circulated amongst the sport – was much needed. The worry that first started to bloom amongst anxious rival fans like a toxic weed spread fast to the heirarchy of the game. For good reason as well.

The owners of the few clubs fortunate enough to have deep enough pockets to be able to do the equivalent of burning £50m had bottomless funds. Think Scrooge McDuck without the twee personality and charming storylines. They possessed the ability to paper over any weakness perceived by the manager of the club they owned by applying a plaster-cast comprised of nothing but banknotes. As fans of Arsenal, we noticed more than most. The cost-cutting regime that was in place at The Emirates was pruning things a little too keenly – not only was the fat trimmed where necessary but our aspirations and leading lights were also being snipped by the frugal secateurs.
Cesc. Hleb. Henry. Nasri. Van Persie. Song to name but a few that were taken from us all in the name of lucre. Those days are behind us now thankfully. The storm cloud on the horizon that threatens the sunnier climes we now expect should have dissipated due to FFP, but it lurks menacingly due to the toothless nature and ridiculous loopholes manipulated by savvy Club Officials. This shouldn’t be.
FFP rules state that the maximum permitted loss for clubs in the Premiership is £105m over 3 years unless the owner injects equity in which case the biggest permitted loss is £15m over 3years. There are no wage restrictions in place as long as the total wage bill is not over £52m per annum.
Chelses have spent just over $471m over the last five years, bringing in £188m in the same period through sales alone. That leaves a net spend of £283m over 5years for the club that has changed completely thanks solely to Romans Roubles.
City have a net spend of £292m over 5years taking into account player acquisition and sales only. That leaves a lot of dosh to be sourced from sponsorship – for both clubs. Especially considering the meagre amount Chelsea get from Samsung per year currently – which is £18m per year. The sponsorship details for City are a tad murkier seeing as they are chiefly sponsored by Eithad – which is also owned by Sheikh Mansour.
UEFA were handed a golden opportunity when City breached the rules of FFP. This was a chance to show that the repercussions of such a flagrant disregard would be meted out with a swift dealing of justice. Not so. The £50m fine meekly handed to them is a slap to the face of all hard-working clubs and backroom staff. A monetary fine given to a club that has one of the worlds richest men at the helm is like punishing a morbidly obese person for not exercising by forcefeeding them doughnuts. The bigwigs at UEFA are to blame for this ridiculous oversight. The best was yet to come though.
City were also given a restriction on the size of squad they could use in European competition. A 21-man party would be allowed but not the regulatory 25-man squad that all other clubs could pick from. Another regulation that would really have sent the gold bars flying back at the Etihad was that City would have to include eight players who had come through the youth system. Off the top of my generously proportioned head I can think of one – Dedryck Boyata. So for eight of the 21 to meet that criteria would have left City undoubtedly exiting the Champions League at the Group Stage once again. Lo and Behold though – City find a loophole, manage to enlist the help of FIFPRO – the players union – and UEFA relent, lowering the eight to five. Without even taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. What message does this send out to other clubs?
It says that if you can get a sugar daddy, then you can whore yourself for whatever whims you desire. No matter that your actual revenue amounts to a tenth of what you’re actually spending – don’t even think of putting the chequebook away. You can spend what you wish as long as you have lawyers that are heavily schooled in bullshit and manipulation of the Queens English.
The moment that sparked my typing fingers into this rant was actually highlighted by an intelligent and interesting fellow on twitter – @Orangeiceman10. His informed points regarding the irony of Mourinho’s comments were illuminating and infuriating. My quickdraw temper wasn’t aflame due to @Orangeiceman10 though – I was frothing because of Jose.
How does a man that is respected the world over thanks to his haul of silverware across Europe and his tactical nous manage to then reverse that by spewing bile that wouldn’t seem out of place on daytime TV? Or from Alan Shearer?
Jose states that he would like any club that breaches FFP to have any league titles taken away that were subsequently won. So basically – in laymans terms – it was a cheap shot directed at City due to the cash they have spent in the last few years. If he wants that rule put in place then you may as well scratch out every single achievement that Chelsea have won since Abramovich waltzed down Kings Road. It smacks of irony and a blase attitude to the chaos that Chelsea have sparked since they started making player agent’s cartwheel for cash. It is also a kick to sack to all clubs who at least attempt to run a business that doesn’t leak money more than Nick Leeson after imbibing 23 tequilas.
What maybe perceived as another egregious disregard of FFP is the stark fact that Chelsea have TWENTY-SIX players on loan. 26. Stockpiling talent. This is only because they don’t want others to have them. Like a fat greedy kid at a birthday party – Chelsea have gathered up all the buffet food and hid under the table to enjoy them solely. Surely situations such as these should have been foreseen by the people who effectively run the European game? 26 players farmed out to other clubs many of which were directly involved in players who signed for Chelsea. It reeks of injustice.
So where does this leave us? We are all aware – and rather proud – of our standing in a financial sense. In terms of income and outgoings we are in rude health. The fact we can survive without a rich benefactor is a huge boost as well. We need not rely on income from one source for we can generate it ourselves. Much like the annoying Destiny’s Child song – we are independent. What a fantastic – and rare position to be in. We also have enough cash to purchase needed squad additions ( though the last transfer window is best forgotten ).
The question remains though – Why shouldn’t we go to Kroenke, cap in hand, and ask for a few hundred million to not only pepper our squad with world class players but also to stop other rival clubs strengthening themselves? It isn’t as if FFP will rein our wild cheque-writing hand in is it? We could bust into the HQ of Real Madrid with a swagger borne from Top Gun and then simply give Florentino Perez a list of the players we want. Without saying a word.
Why not? As mentioned earlier, I foresee a storm. Due to the lax punishments dished out by UEFA – not only to City but also to PSG who have spent so much dosh over the last few seasons that they find themselves drowning in players and in dire need to offload – I think that clubs will see that their are ways and means of avoiding any consequences. They will continue to spend their ill-gotten gains and bloat themselves to such a degree that some clubs of lower stature will be mainly comprised of rich-club cast-offs and loan players. The situation will become untenable. We are nearly at this point. Wages regularly tip the scales at £200k per week and are rising. Take into account the fact that Chelsea have a stadium that is less than 42000 and PSG have less than 49000 and you can see the maths do not add up. Throw into the mix a few owners bored with their toys and decide to try lacrosse or haggis-hunting and take their filthy lucre with them and we have clubs who have not only muddied the transfer waters but also face the cold realisation that they may not be able to sustain the club under mounting debt.
Who suffers though after this clusterfuck of errors and barefaced ignorance? The ever-suffering fans. Whether you are a fan of a cash-rich club or a club that is tightening its belt you will be affected – by proxy or directly – by the actions of these fools.
As a fan of Arsenal, we like to find scapegoats, so let’s continue in that vein. who is to blame for this black comedy? Is it the club for allowing themselves to be sullied all in the name of immediate success? Is it the new owners who wish to be entertained much like a modern-day Caligula? No. It is Platini and his motley crew.
Platini had a gilt-edged chance to allow football to flourish on an even keel. To let competition be fought keenly whilst the constant fret of money and income would be lessened. They fluffed their lines. It is now a necessity that the next breach they deal with must be dealt with by swift and just means. If not – then we won’t just lose a competitive edge in football – we may also lose football itself.

By @JokmanAFC

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