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Football enters the end of the rule of law, as a new French Revolution might be on the cards

By Tony Attwood

There was a moment, when Manchester City were found by Uefa to have broken FFP rules, when it looked very much as if the club could not believe it.  Which I guess is to be expected if the club is part of the personal fiefdom of the rulers of a phenomenally wealthy and powerful country.

There were similar moments when Spanish clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were banned from signing players.

Subsequently we have had Manchester City and Liverpool banned from signing academy players and Manchester City are currently waiting for the outcome of their appeal against yet another ban in relation to their signing of a youngster.

In return there have been many protests that FFP rules are against the EU statutes – as we dealt with in a recent article.    But now we have PSG taking Neymar and Mbappé (the latter on loan with an option to buy next year). So does this mean FFP is dead?

FFP limits clubs the Champs League and the Europa to losses of €5m for each year from 2015/16 on to 2017/18, although this can rise to €30m over the whole period if paid for by the owner.  Anyone taking over a club can also spend a bit more – but basically the rules are still there, and the option of legal challenges against FFP very theoretical.  Indeed if any of the big clubs wanted to challenge FFP in the courts they would have done this by now.

So what is PSG up to?  The idea of a Mbappé loan doesn’t help them too much, because the rules (like personal and corporation tax laws in the UK) allow the authorities to ignore procedures that are introduced simply to get around the rules.  Putting Mbappé as a loan player to move his fee into next year’s accounts is obviously an artificial move, so as long as PSG do keep him for more than one year, his fee will count in the current accounting year’s figures.

PSG have sold players but according to the Guardian’s calculator even without taking Mbappé into account they are still down £178m.   Youssouf Sabaly went to Bordeaux for £3.5m, Jean-Kévin Augustin to RB Leipzig for £11.4m, Blaise Matuidi to Juventus for £18.2m.  There are some “undisclosed” figures in their accounts, but even if they amount to another £10m, PSG are still in trouble.

So what is going on?

PSG is still smarting from the Round of 16 matches in the Champions League in which they beat Barcelona 4-0 and then lost 6-1.  If you think Untold makes a bit of a fuss about refereeing in the PL, you should read the fall out about the referee from that match as Barce scored three times from the 88th minute onwards.

There is a school of thought that says PSG’s acceptance of the outrageous refereeing in that match has come with an understanding that the club can spend what it wants.   And it has the money because it is part of the Qatar Project, a project that already involves world football ignoring the use of slave labour to build stadia, and the fact that games are going to be played in temperatures approaching 40 degrees.  Ignoring PSG’s spending is nothing compared to what the authorities have already done for Qatar.

Besides Michel Platini, as Uefa president, was told by President Sarkozy to support the Qatar WC bid.  And anyway, last time all that PSG got was a fine of €60m and the cutting of their Champions League squad to 21 players.  Their argument is, it doesn’t matter if we have 25 or 21, if we are going to have refereeing like that in the Barcelona match we could have 55 players and still have no chance of winning.

Plus although Uefa said the Qatar Tourism Authority sponsorship of PSG was at an inflated price, it still allowed some of it through: as if anyone goes to Qatar for tourism.   Well, ok a few did, but no more.  The country is being blockaded by other Arab states and is accused of funding the Terror.  I guess some tourists might go, just as a few might still go to Egypt or Tunisia, but it ain’t many compared to five years ago.

Quite possibly PSG won’t even bother with any creative accounting.  After all their original sponsorship deal with Qatar was back dated a year – as if one can actually backdate a tourism publicity deal.  That is so farcical and so nonsensical that it can’t actually be debated.  As insane as the notion that Qatar, even if it did have tourism, now has any.  All its land borders are shut, and many airlines won’t fly in.

Of course there is nothing that happens now – it is only at the end of the financial year that Uefa will look at the figures for next season’s Champions League.

But there is another factor for Uefa to consider.  How many leagues do they want to have, in which there is just one club which can buy everyone and win everything every year?  How long will supporters and indeed owners of all the other teams put up with this?

Have you heard the story in which the rest of the French League simply resigns and sets up their own league without PSG, rather than be pushed into a situation in which PSG wins every match and every championship every year?  It is out there.  That of course would be the biggest challenge of them all to Uefa’s credibility and to the French League: fix PSG properly and keep them inside the rules, or you can have them playing in a league of their own.

The argument against that is that the bigger French clubs want to come 2nd, 3rd and 4th to enter the Champions League and the Europa and get the money from that.  But the new thinking is that just by threatening the idea of pulling out the French League and Uefa would act quickly enough to resolve matters.  If they don’t, one season of PSG alone could still be worth having as it would make the League meaningfully open for once.

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8 comments to Football enters the end of the rule of law, as a new French Revolution might be on the cards

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    My want for Arsenal is they should not be sitting on the fence watching and waiting to see if FFP rules that looks to be circumventing by some power big club sides in England and Europe, but join them if they can’t beat them by seeing to them being punished. But cash in by breaking the FFP rules too to get any undue advantage these FFP rules breaker big clubs will get and be enjoying as a result of breaking the FFP rules.

    Have I said something positive or it’s just rubbish that I’ve talked? Sorry!

  • para

    Qatar is obviously vying for entry into the club, that club of elitists who rule the world, after all its ways mirror the ways of these elitists and they will be allowed to operate within the elitists as long as they tensely agree on the main goals, they will be allowed to do what they want, this is how it works.

    The entry requirements is money, lots of it, and the ability to do anything, yes anything(that is, have no morals) to get more.

    There are those who sit on their high horses and proclaim “oh look how evil you are”, even after having built their empire upon the same principles, and indeed still do so.

    I cannot let such hypocrisy pass.

    The usuall response is, “oh it was so long ago” does not even begin to make any sense, it is still happening today, albeit hidden.
    Other countries saw how it was done and follow the examples, pure and simple.

    Quatar is a threat to the elitists, so they will either bend and keep eyes shut or try to integrate(take over from the inside) as they have a history in doing.

  • porter

    I Always knew from day 1 that a coach and horses would be driven through FFP. There are too many vested interests in such corporations as FIFA and UEFA and as Lucy Parsons said in the early 1900’s “Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.” It was as true then as it is today.

  • Dom

    I have little to add to what you have written Tony apart from the ruthlessness that these Qataris demonstrate when things don’t go their way. Laurent Blanc …goodbye although he won the championship.
    Of course to make matters worse (as far as they are concerned) allowing Monaco to grab the headlines last season and the title was just unacceptable.
    Qatar is trying to buy France and with Macron in power, i’m sure they will succeed!
    Personally I blame the french league 1 owners for their weak stance and total acceptation that they are feeder clubs for the UK,Spain, Germany and Italy football leagues.Monaco already 350M eur in the bank possibly rising to 500M (according to L’Equipe).
    Deschamps has not seen half of his players at Clairefontaine owing to a number of possible transfers still in the air.

  • Polo

    FFP like tax laws, will alway have loop holes for the rich to exploit. I wonder whether UEFA is making big money from these mega transfers through some sort of fees?

  • The_Ledge

    I tend to agree with Samuel, in the notion that “if you can’t beat them, join them”. The old Arsenal board would probably disagree with that sentiment most vehemently, but I’m not so sure about the ownership. However, as Stan the Man is adamant that no investment is coming out of HIS pocket, thankyou very much, the possibility of breaking the FFP rules appears fanciful.

    It’s perhaps this mixed sentiment that gives a mixed reaction to a takeover by Alisher Usmanov, because for every person that sees his fat wallet, there will be 4 others who are concerned with his alleged shady background. However, it’s up to the FA and the government to make the rules regarding Directorships of football businesses in the UK, and so the Usbek becomes a possible owner, not least in the eyes of UK precedence law.

    The problem is the usual one. Even if the supporters decided they would accept Usmanov, Big Stan won’t have a bar of him, so it becomes a farcical battle between the two billionaire major shareholders.

    Is there an answer? probably.

    Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, has had ambitions to buy Arsenal FC for 30 years. He plans to make an offer, once he has completed his current project (a massive dam), in his native Nigeria. That is expected to happen within the next two years. So, the question wouldn’t be if the fans would accept him, but if Kroenke would be open to accepting a bid from this lifelong Arsenal supporter (?).

    Should this happen, what would fans think of a TWO person ownership, where the Nigerian buys all of Kroenke’s shares, then subsequently flog enough to Usmanov to bring the Uzbek’s holding up to 44.9%? By ignoring the 5% of shares in minor holdings, Dangote would leave himself with 50.1% – and overall control.

    Both Usmanov and Dangote have separately stated that they want Arsenal to be successful. There would be loads of questions before this could happen, but perhaps NOW is the time for fans to start agitating seriously for change at the very top. If that agitation could somehow draw commitment to INVEST in the team by both potential successors to Kroenke, then their potential tenure COULD quickly gain supporter approval.

    It’s lots of cans with lots of worms, but the supporters must start to drive for change – or face the staus quo!

  • Nitram

    The_Ledge

    “”I tend to agree with Samuel, in the notion that “if you can’t beat them, join them”.””

    I understand why fans are starting to think this way.

    But on a personal level I have been adamant in my mind that we have to continue down the road of the ‘self sustaining’ model. I still believe it is the right way to go, but it has to be said it is getting tougher and tougher to do, almost by the hour.

    As Tony I think it was said yesterday, we were always going to be dependent on FFP, at least having some effect, for us to have any chance of making the model work. Unfortunately FFP has turned out to be absolutely toothless when faced, not only with the financial might of the mega mega rich, but the impotence, and capitulations of it’s custodians.

    Sadly I feel we are now at that crossroads you allude to.

    ‘If you cant beat them, join them.’

    As I say, I have supported the principle of the ‘self sustaining’ model ever since we set out down this road. A road that was openly set upon. No deception. No reneging on promises as some of the whingers suggest. so I’m not going to change now. But what I feel I have to do is resign myself to the fact that even with the genius that is Arsene Wenger in charge, the handicap it imposes upon him is beginning to get too large even for him to overcome.

    Obviously, the fact we hadn’t secured a championship since the arrival of the mega bucks, or a Champions League for that matter, shows how difficult it already was, but at least we were hanging on to the coat tails. At least we did occasionally get within touching distance, even on a ZERO transfer budget (despite the crap that we were never competitive, which we obviously were from time to time).

    But now?

    The money these mega rich clubs are banding about is simply mindboggling. It makes competing with them, not just difficult but nigh on impossible.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with money or investment, per se, but to these levels?

    It was, in my opinion bad enough when £50 Million a year was pumped in to a club, but what is happening now is simply ridiculous.

    But alas, and to use the wife’s favourite saying ‘It is what it is’.

    A crossroads indeed. All I know is, whatever Arsenal football Club decide to do. Whatever Arsene Wenger tries to do to compete the best he can. I will support them.

  • Flares

    How ironic that the first window Wenger sanctions a 100m Euro bid, the player himself rejects the move as he prefers Liverpool, who will probably drop out the Champions League at the first attempt. Would Lemar be interested in Liverpool if they were in Arsenal’s current position? Of course not, which outlines the cynical nature of the modern footballer.

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