Financial fair play for the few?

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Financial fair play (FFP) has recently been making the headlines almost as much as the action on Europe’s football pitches. Following the release of Manchester City’s financial statements at the end of January, many are wondering whether the club will be able to argue that the losses it has reported fall within UEFA’s various categories of exemption. This will be an important test of UEFA’s approach towards the interpretation of ‘football-related expenditure’ and, potentially, its preparedness to sanction non-compliance.

Jose Mourinho has contributed to the debate by calling into question whether all clubs vying for the Premier League title are as committed to FFP as Chelsea. This is, of course, somewhat ironic given the estimated losses that Chelsea has made during the Abromovic era. However, these losses were primarily incurred before the FFP rules were introduced. As such, it is easy to see why Chelsea and a number of other ‘big clubs’ now support the FFP rules, as they have been able to push themselves to the top of football’s food chain before their financial conduct was subject to regulation. Manchester City is an exception, since it is still seeking to carry out its programme of investment while the FFP rules are being rolled out.

It has long been the case that clubs must invest significant sums in playing and coaching talent in order to compete for honours, especially in recent times where it seems only clubs that have attracted wealthy owners are able to launch a meaningful challenge. As such, the best hope for the vast majority of clubs is to attract their own deep-pocketed investors, in the hope of securing the kind of financial backing that can transform a club into title hopefuls…

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