This week has seen the credibility of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play again called into question, this time by Arsene Wenger.
When the regulations were originally announced, the intention of UEFA was that clubs would no longer be able to spend recklessly in pursuit of success, and that clubs’ maximum allowed expenditure would be based on the amount of football related revenue generated.
An instant flaw in the system was in its delayed introduction. Clubs were given two years before the rules were due to come into play, allowing astronomical spending sprees from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City in order to build squads of world-class players before any repercussions could be felt by the ruling.
Another challenge, one which is ongoing, has been to ensure that sponsorship deals are market value, and are not artificially inflated. Man City’s £400m stadium sponsorship deal raised that very issue, given the record-breaking nature of the deal coupled with the fact that the sponsors – Etihad – are a company owned by a relative of the club’s owner.
The deal, for a club yet to compete for a Premiership title or establish itself amongst Europe’s elite, was more than double the value of the existing world record for stadium sponsorship and has therefore attracted questions over whether the inflated cost is an attempt to help Man City balance its books following a colossal investment in players and wages.
Man City’s announcement of almost £200million in losses over the last year has again led to the current Premiership leaders being put in the spotlight, as new concerns are raised over the authority of UEFA to impose sanctions where clubs fail to meet the Financial Fair Play criteria.
Arsene Wenger has suggested that it would be difficult for UEFA to ban clubs from entering the Champions League or Europa League competitions even if they had not managed to meet the financial regulations specified. The Arsenal manager suggested that attempting to enforce such punishments could lead to legal challenges either from clubs or from individual players.
Should his concerns prove to have any foundation, then the reputation of UEFA will surely suffer another blow.
Only by strongly enforcing the guidelines they published when announcing the FFP in 2009 can UEFA hope to retain any credibility in their attempts to create a fairer playing field for clubs competing in European competition.
And there can be no exceptions made.