Financial Fair Play (FFP) has been a contentious issue to say the least. City, along with other clubs, have been stung by new regulations which either do something about financial disparity in football or enshrine the existing elite in positions of power, depending on your personal biases.
Despite this, there are signs that FFP may be reformed in the future to put more emphasis on the “fair” descriptor, rather than on “financial”.
FFP currently has many problems which have been discussed widely, some might say ‘beyond the point of sanity’, so I won’t go into that again in depth here, but there is a strong argument to say that only the concerns of the currently wealthy were taken into account when the rules were drawn up. For instance, clubs in enormous debt – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United – were deemed to be financially responsible, whereas stable investment from outside sources was considered unhealthy and undesirable.
That these legitimate concerns were so readily ignored speaks to the strange compulsion among football fans and the tabloid media to jump to the defence of almost anything as long as there is an opportunity to attack other teams which you dislike. This manifests itself as an almost perverse ability to work against our own self interests. See also: mocking other fans for not paying £40 for yet another ticket during the hardest economic times in recent memory while letting the people who set ticket prices that high off the hook.
City fans cried foul almost instantly following the creation of the new rules but were largely, and unfairly, ignored because of who it was doing the talking. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a suspicious media eager to tear into a newly rich ‘upstart’ club misrepresented, intentionally or not, the effects of FFP.
However, things appear to be changing.
Typical City editor Rob Pollard wrote recently for the Bleacher Report that UEFA have started listening to City’s point of view in recent weeks on the subjects of Champion’s League seeding and the incorporation of debt into FFP consideration.
UEFA confirmed in a recent “full and frank” meeting that, “potential enhancements to the system were […] discussed with the debate covering such diverse issues as owner’s investment, club debt, ossification, the fair value of related-party transactions, differing financial and legal circumstances in different countries and the perceived advantage of clubs not in European competition in the previous season.” This is in line with the bulk of the concerns raised by the Chairman, Khaldoon al Mubarak, in his end of season interview this summer.
As mentioned above, FFP has become a contender for the most over-discussed, boring topic in the wide world of football.
But the new developments have potential to be quite interesting. Modern football (something which I am not against) is swimming, or perhaps drowning, in money. Everything is monetised to the point where it can feel like we’re living in a terrible dystopian future.
Personally, my main issue with FFP is that it doesn’t go far enough. To target “fairness” in one area and not in others is extremely unfair. Many City fans react to FFP with talk of agendas and conspiracies which, whilst often done in a way bordering on the insane, does speak to some legitimate concerns.
But what if some of these new measures – which the UEFA statement was at pains to state had not been decided upon – were implemented and a broader range of football evils were curbed? Might it actually live up to its billing of making the game fairer?
Enormous debt is the club killer. Portsmouth and Leeds could tell us that. For the health of the game it is imperative that huge debt be tackled, no matter how big the club on the receiving end of sanctions is. This would also have the dual effect of keeping the most unscrupulous, debt leveraging owners away from the game.
Fighting the ossification of leagues is also essential. No new clubs aside from Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain will win the Champion’s League near future. No new club will win the Premier League either. And those are just some examples of the biggest competitions. The money being hoarded by only the top clubs in smaller leagues can be devastating. Measures to proliferate money more effectively, for instance by distributing Champion’s League earnings evenly throughout the leagues and making TV deals fairer, are essential to stop leagues dying. Football must be competitive and it won’t be if an eternal cartel is set in stone at the very top. Every club should be allowed to dream. Hope and ambition should not be so easily killed.
This is just another way of saying that fighting the absurd financial might of the top teams, and the disparity that creates, is just as important as stopping a misbalancing influx of cash pouring into the game from outside sources.
If UEFA really does decide to do something about this then FFP might yet redeem itself as a force for good in the game. I’ll not be holding my breath but, to be honest, that this is even being talked about beyond fan forums and blogs is a bigger step than I ever thought to see.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter