Are we headed for a FFP U-turn?

Are we headed for a FFP U-turn?

Financial Fair Play (FFP) was from the very start designed to herald the beginning of a more stable and wholly more equitable period for football. Geared towards financial sustainability, rather than the reckless overspending of the past, FFP from the outset was able to enjoy largely widespread backing from those in and around the game.

Yet as the tighter, more stringent rules begin to take hold, it’s UEFA’s very own President Michel Platini who has taken it upon himself to announce an imminent relaxation of the current rules: Platini told French radio station RTL:

“The world is two-faced but we will say this openly: I think we’ll ease things, but it will be the executive committee who will decide if it is to be eased or something like that, and the outcome will be known by the end of June.”

“I think the regulations have been very good and it is the clubs who voted for FFP.” “But the French press say it is not right that (Chelsea owner Roman) Abramovich can buy many players and in France they cannot buy them. But if the Qataris had bought AC Milan, the French would also say we should make financial fair play even tougher. As it is, the Italians wanted it eased.”

So why the current change of heart?

It is felt that the existing rules favour the more established European clubs, those that already boast talented squads but who are also able to drive the turnover required to invest further still. The emerging forces like PSG and Manchester City are playing catch-up, and in order to assert themselves on Europe would argue that short term losses will be a necessary evil to challenge the status-quo.

These two particular clubs have already borne the brunt of recent punishments, with fines of £49m already levelled against both clubs, as well as a restriction on City’s Champions League squad also being placed.

Platini is also likely to be concerned by the impact of the Premier League’s new TV licencing deal that gives them a considerable competitive advantage against their European adversaries. The improved deal in England allows clubs to further increase their outlay without having to worry excessively about FFP, something that simply wouldn’t be the case on the continent. Platini has rarely been seen as a friend of the English game, and steps to relax FFP rules would just be another example of this particular trait.

In addition, UEFA is already feeling the sting of significant legal challenges to its ruling. The association has been inundated with cases where clubs are fighting to defend their spending; and on the basis of business freedom many would argue they have a case. We seem to view football as a world unto its own, but it is easy to forget that the game is exposed to the exact same rules and regulations that any business within the EU must conform to. This extends to the rights to trade in a fair and free manner, where any check on economic liberalism is subject to the scrutiny of the European Commission and beyond.

Jean-Louis Dupont, the lawyer leading one of the legal challenges against UEFA’s FFP system, said in a statement:

“We welcome the announcement of a change in the rules in line with the demands expressed by our clients in their various legal actions.”

“When the exact content and scope of these changes are known, we will consider with our clients how this development, which on first sight appears favourable, is likely to meet their legitimate expectations and influence the conduct of ongoing actions.”

Whether this is a challenge to the relative economic prosperity of English clubs, or simply a necessary revision to ever-changing rules, it is clear FFP as we know it is going to change. With an upcoming meeting in Prague between the 29th and 30th June, a possible change of tact could come as soon as the summer.