Are clubs taking UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations seriously?

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This summer's transfer fees have hit an all time high, with some extraordinary sums of money changing hands for the world's biggest and best footballers. 

Paris Saint Germain, Manchester City and Monaco have already spent roughly £100million each on talents like Edinson Cavani, Stevan Jovetic and Radamel Falcao. 

There is even speculation that - even in the current climate of worldwide austerity - Real Madrid will pay £100million on one man, Gareth Bale.

This spending to excess begs the question of whether or not the world's biggest and richest football clubs are really tightening their belts in an attempt to comply with Michel Platini's Financial Fair Play regulations.

Introduced in 2009, Uefa's plan was that every club should be able to balance their spending on player wages and transfer fees with their income (gate receipts, player sales, advertising, merchandising, commercial and TV revenue). 

Clubs were encouraged to invest in infrastructure and facilities to build a sustainable business as any money spent on these was not included in the accounts Uefa would judge.

In affect, clubs should be run at a profit or at least be able to 'break even'. This would, in theory put an end to wealthy owners injecting huge sums of cash into clubs and would level the playing field for clubs using a steady, self-sufficient business model such as the one employed at Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal. 

The Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has even stated that Real Madrid's rumoured offer for Bale, "makes a joke of the financial fair play regulations".

This season marks the first year where clubs accounts will be properly scrutinised, and any club failing to at least break even may be hit by Uefa imposed sanctions. 

The punishments include reprimands/warnings, fines, points deductions, withholding of revenue from a Uefa competition, prohibition to register new players for Uefa competitions, restrictions on how many players a club can register for Uefa competitions, disqualification from a competition in progress and exclusion from future competitions.

However, this summer's extraordinary spending has led some to question whether Uefa will enforce their rules as vigorously as they have claimed they would. 

Indeed Uli Hoeness, the Bayern Munich president, has said: "If Platini is consistent, he must kick two big clubs out of the Champions League in the coming years in order to set an example."

It is hard to imagine Uefa weakening their own competition by excluding teams like Manchester City, Chelsea or PSG because they are run at a loss despite being owned by wealthy benefactors. 

Such fears have led Liverpool's managing director, Ian Ayre, to comment: "We have to see the application by Uefa, we have to wait and see how fair they really play it. I have to say my level of confidence in it isn't very high."

Such scepticism in financial fair play is easily understood when it appears clubs may attempt to exploit loopholes in the rules through inflated sponsorship deals with partner companies, such as the £400million deal Manchester City have in place with Eithad Airways. 

PSG also have a similar agreement in place with the Qatar Tourism Authority to deliver the club up to 200 million euros per year. Such deals appear designed to circumvent the rules but Uefa insist that every sponsorship deal will be scrutinised to ensure they were fair. 

It remains to be seen if Uefa will match their tough talk with similarly tough actions; if any big clubs do fail to comply with Platini's regulations it will be very interesting to see if European football's governing body imposes the harshest sanctions on one of Europe's big boys. 

If financial fair play is to be taken seriously an example may have to be made.


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