So the first penalties under UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules have been issued. Have the clubs involved been treated fairly or have they basically gotten away with it? And are the penalties imposed likely to act as deterrents to other clubs in the future?
The two main clubs in question are Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Both have been accused of doing dodgy commercial deals with sponsors who appear to be linked to the club owners. I think most objective commentators would regard the revenue accrued from these deals to be on the generous side and UEFA has agreed, deeming PSG's deal with the Qatar Tourist Board as yielding twice the market value and expressing grave concerns about City's sponsorship package with Etihad and other image deals. So what did they do to sanction these two financial giants of European football?
Both clubs have been fined £49millio - a drop in the ocean to Sheikh Mansour and PSG's owners - and had their spending capped at a net £49million. They have also had their squad for the Champions League limited to 21 players instead of the usual 25. But how damaging is this to clubs like City and PSG?
Well the fine is small change, plus it is spread over three seasons and can be rescinded if the club fall back into compliance (which surely is a self-fulfilling prophecy if they fulfil the other sanctions).
City themselves have said the spending cap on transfers is no problem and the squad reduction is almost an irrelevance, especially after UEFA climbed down on the home-grown player requirement and let the club name only five home-grown players in the squad. As some of City's squad would have been untried graduates from their academy anyway, this is effectively just reducing their ability to give a few youngsters a bit of bench time in any irrelevant or dead fixtures.
UEFA explain their climbdown by saying they didn't want to give the wrong signals to clubs. I think that ship might have already sailed on that with this piece of spineless enforcement.
Hitting clubs that have almost limitless amounts of cash with financial penalties is a total waste of time. Limiting their net spending to as much as £49million is hardly restricting their activity significantly given the value of the squads they already have. Restricting squad sizes, especially when most of the reduction can be accommodated through eliminating peripheral members, scarcely suggests an array of effective sanctions.
When you bear in mind that Liverpool posted a £90million loss but were excluded even from consideration because they weren't competing in Europe this season, you can begin to expose the folly of this approach. Presumably, as Manchester United aren't in Europe next season they will be allowed to spend up to the limit of what they can afford. It will therefore have been advantageous for them to have not qualified for the Europa League! Maybe David Moyes did have a plan after all?
The test of FFP was always going to be how the big clubs were treated. I think UEFA is sending a very clear signal to clubs outside the big spenders. FFP a farce that has no teeth, no effective sanctions and it is pretty much business as usual for the wealthy clubs. I hope I am proved wrong as we move further into the designated period and more clubs transgress.
It will be very interesting to see what UEFA do when the big clubs effectively put two fingers up to them. Will they have the nerve to take them on?
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