- The psychological war being waged on Arsenal, its fans and its players every day
- Accepting rather than questioning, is English football’s greatest problem
By Tony Attwood
Financial Fair Play has been with us for over ten years now, but this year it is making much bigger waves than ever before, while forcing the journalists to put new batteries into their calculators.
This is all due to a change in the way FFP operates, and in essence the fact that finally, the authorities seem to mean business.
The main change is that Premier League clubs had to hand over their accounts for 2022/23 by the end of December 2023. The League’s new rules say that any FFP breaches should be announced by January 14 – (although they are probably extending that to January 15 as the 14th is a Sunday).
Meanwhile Uefa is also doing its sums and there have been reports saying that Manchester United, have been fined around a quarter of a million pounds by Uefa. They blamed a change in the rules (which of course it was.)
The Premier League’s new approach means that clubs that have transgressed the FFP rules and get a points penalty as a result will have the points penalty in the season for which they have transgressed. This of course has not been happening with Manchester City, Chelsea, and Everton.
The League is due to announce any transgressions and punishments for this season by April 7. Clubs can then appeal, and the appeals have to be concluded by 24 May after at which point (a week after the end of the league season) we will finally know who is being relegated from the PL.
This is having an effect on reducing the level of transfers this month (although the media don’t seem to have realised yet) with more clubs looking at loans, or helping each other out by taking players from a club in FFP difficulty but at a discount, or indeed with a deal to sell the player on again in the next financial year.
The clubs’ problem is that in the last year for which we have figures, 18 Premier League clubs lost money – which is why they are busy selling off their 16 year olds as we noted in the last piece.
Of course one of the big problems is that spending vast amounts of money, or buying in large numbers of players does not actually guarantee success. Indeed Wolverhampton Wanderers sold one and a half squad’s worth of players in the summer of 2023 in order to avoid problems with FFP this year (although to be fair they are still 11th in the table).
But what about Everton? I have received multiple emails from Everton fans telling me that there is a conspiracy against Everton. That might be true, but I can’t reach a conclusion on that with being offered some reason why Everton should be targeted in this way. If you know why the conspirators went for Everton, please do write in. (And may I thank those Everton fans who have written to me for their politeness. If only it were ever thus).
But worse for Everton fans, there is talk that they are likely to be charged again. Chelsea also have some worries and here we have talked of this before. They invented the idea of putting players on 8 year contracts to spread the payment of the transfer fee in the company’s accounting records over that period of time. That loophole has now gone.
Elsewhere we are in the world of rumours being passed among financial journalists, and here the general feeling is that three clubs are in difficulty: Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Aston Villa.
Indeed one of the problems with the way FFP works is that it is set up to stop a club that has been promoted from then spending as much as it likes on players in order to help it survive in the Premier League. But this is exactly what Forest did after they were promoted in 2022 despite the fact that they are limited to losses of £61m.
So what we are now seeing however is that players are being sold not because they are surplus to requirements or not good enough for the team, but to balance the FFP requirements.
Quite why all this is happening now, depends on which pundit or expert you read, but generally there is a feeling (expressed in the Athletic for example) that more clubs are now owned by Americans, and they expect their sports clubs to make money rather than lose it. Although another reason is surely also that clubs in Europe have got totally fed up with the amount of money English clubs were throwing around, which led to the introduction of Uefa regulations which are in part even more punitive than the Premier League’s own version.
One way or another it looks possible that a few more clubs are going to be punished in the coming weeks either by Uefa or by the League or by both, and there will probably be a few more complaints of a conspiracy – although equally likely, without any explanation of why a specific club has been picked on.
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