UEFA approves new rules to control football club finances

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Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Champions League first leg soccer match between Manchester City and Atletico Madrid at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester on Tuesday April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson )

PA

UEFA approved new financial supervision rules for European football clubs on Thursday, forgoing “fair play” and lowering expectations that it can resolve the competitive imbalance in the Champions League.

The “Financial Fair Play” system, known as FFP, will be replaced in June by the “Financial Sustainability” regulations.

“Competitiveness cannot be addressed simply by financial regulations,” UEFA project manager Andrea Traverso told a briefing, adding that the words “fair play” had been misinterpreted to mean ” we are creating a level playing field”.

“That’s why we changed the name,” he said.

The Champions League has been dominated by the wealthier clubs, those able to afford increased player salaries and huge transfer fees. Over the past decade, the most unlikely club to reach the Champions League final was Tottenham, who currently hold the 10th highest turnover in world football. Only Spanish and English clubs have won the Europa League.

The new rules were hailed by the Spanish league last week for “restricting the ability of state-owned clubs to commit financial doping”. This statement did not identify the clubs but clearly targeted Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, owned by the leaders of Abu Dhabi and Qatar respectively.

By 2025, clubs participating in UEFA competitions will be limited to spending 70% of their income on salaries and transfers, under penalty of financial and, eventually, sporting sanctions.

After two years of financial sanctions, clubs who persistently break the rules could be banned from selecting certain players in UEFA competitions, have points deducted or be banned from a competition.

“The deterrents are there,” Traverso said. “From a certain point (clubs) would be sanctioned so harshly that I think it would be quite a deterrent.”

Although some clubs were banned for a season from the Champions League and Europa League under the old FFP system, the most famous case saw Man City beat UEFA to get a two-year ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Investigators appointed by UEFA had accused Man City of inflating the value of sponsorship deals with companies in Abu Dhabi.

From June, UEFA said it would assess all commercial deals, not just those suspected of being too closely tied to club owners.

“We think the way (the rules) are fine-tuned is becoming more and more difficult for clubs,” Traverso said, acknowledging that “our ability to investigate is kind of limited because we, as you well know, we are not the police”.

Minutes before the UEFA briefing, Man City were the subject of a new report of financial wrongdoing published by Der Spiegel. German magazine reporting in 2018 using internal club documents led to the UEFA ban and Man City’s successful appeal to CAS.

City have not publicly commented on the latest allegations.

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Edward K. Thompson