Football: UEFA’s new financial fair play, a sham reform



Two giants from England, two greats from Spain: the four clubs qualified in the last four of the Champions League after the quarter-finals on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 April are regulars at continental feasts. No one is surprised to find Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Villarreal at the top. This last guest was certainly less expected, but the winner of the Europa League 2021 is anything but a newcomer to the European football scene, already a semi-finalist in 2006.

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It is not tomorrow the day before that surprise little thumbs will take their place at the banquet of the football ogres. The new rules of financial fair play that UEFA has just voted will certainly not upset the hierarchy in place.

On the contrary, since they will offer “more latitude for clubs”, recognized Aleksander Ceferin, the president of the European governing body. Understand: a little more flexibility in the management of their budget to cope with the consequences of the health crisis and more broadly to adapt to changes in “the football industry that changed”repeats the boss of UEFA.

Regulate excessive pay

Launched during the 2010-2011 season, first-generation financial fair play (FPF) aimed to limit club debt by establishing a simple principle: do not spend more than your income, with a tolerance of 30 million euros. euro deficit over three accounting years. Overall, the regulations have proven to be quite effective, avoiding huge imbalances, even if the clubs have sometimes applied themselves to finding workaround techniques. On the other hand, the FPF did not prevent a mad escalation of wages, and it is this excess that it wishes to regulate.

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Regarding debt, the new rules authorize an additional deficit for clubs (from 30 to 60 million euros), but force the worst off to repay 10% of their debt every year. On the payroll side, they set a limit on spending allocated to salaries, transfer compensation and agent commissions. This limitation will be progressive: equal to 90% of club income in 2023-2024, 80% thereafter, and 70% from the 2025-2026 season.

In the event of non-compliance, various sanctions are provided for depending on the overrun: a fine called “luxury tax”, adding to a fund then redistributed to the most virtuous clubs, deductions of points, the banning of certain newly recruited players, or even relegation from one competition to another (from the Champions League to the Europa League for example).

PSG very advantaged

The reference for this payroll control is the “salary cap” system, which exists in the American professional leagues. “Except that the UEFA-style salary cap has nothing to do withsays economist Luc Arrondel, professor at the Paris School of Economics and sports specialist. In the United States, the system concerns a closed league, like the NBA for example in basketball, a single manager who shares the payroll between the different franchise owners, an absolute and not a relative division of the payroll. The rules are more restrictive across the Atlantic, while those of UEFA are just akin to rules of good management. »

Will they be effective? In any case, they give air to certain clubs like PSG, whose payroll today is overflowing. The Parisian club has three years to get into the nails, the ideal time to calmly negotiate the Kylian Mbappé case and offer the striker a staggering jackpot before the more restrictive 70% rule applies.

“All the clubs which have large shareholders and significant equity such as PSG or Manchester City are clearly at an advantage compared to historic clubs with extremely indebtedness such as Barcelona or Juventus Turin”underlines the economist Jérémie Bastien, of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

The Super League still in the background

It is therefore difficult not to place this new FPF in the context of the great fight between UEFA and the promoters of the Super League, this project of a closed league competing with the Champions League, led by a few leaders of major clubs. The presidents of Barcelona, ​​Turin and Real Madrid have not completely given up, even if their project aroused a huge outcry in the spring of 2021. However, they are the most embarrassed by the new FPF, unlike a Nasser Al Khelaïfi, president of PSG very hostile to the Super League and precious ally of Aleksander Ceferin, the boss of UEFA.

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“It is clear that PSG is in the odor of sanctity at UEFA, and that its requests undoubtedly benefit from a more attentive listening than those of the secessionists of the Super League.comments Luc Arrondel. However, the FPF does not only obey these political motivations, and in any case does not completely upset the situation: the system does not prevent inequalities from widening between clubs and the birth of a Super League in term seems inevitable to me. »

It’s always the same question that has been hovering over European football for ages. “This new regulation ultimately only concerns the big clubs, the only ones capable of generating large revenuesconcludes Jérémie Bastien. For forty years, nothing has stopped the excessive financialization of football, which goes hand in hand with a growing precariousness of the majority of clubs. If nothing is done to fight against it, if bankruptcies multiply, the big clubs will impose their Super League, the culmination of this process..

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