Financial Fair Play, yes, no, maybe? Málaga, Man C & the rest

By Tony Attwood

If you have read any of my ramblings on the FFP issue you’ll know I did hope that it might have an impact.  I was encouraged by Chelsea pulling back on expenditure, until last January when they went wild.  I have been discouraged by the way Man City is spending its billions on anything that moves.  And by the fact that having had to put up with two billionaire clubs, we now have two more  – PSG and Málaga Club de Fútbol

Malaga were sold to Qatari Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani for around ed €25 million fee last year as part of the Qatar build up to its world cup bid.

They have the former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini in charge and keep signing new players including Diego Buonanotte from River Plate  and Joris Mathijsen from Hamburg, plus Van Nistelrooy, Julio Baptista,  Sergio Sánchez, Toulalan, Joaquín, Monreal.  There is talk of Wesley Sneijder joining the party.

So that now gives the oilmen three clubs, one in France, on in England and one in Spain, each rivalling Chelsea who seem rather miffed that they came up with the idea of financial match fixing first.

But it seems that it is not all over as Manchester C have thrown down a challenge to Uefa by claiming that Etihad Airways, the airline owned by the Abu Dhabi government, is buying the naming rights to the City of Manchester stadium, built incidentally with money that came from the taxpayers of the UK.  The club is claiming that they will get £100m for the deal, and that the money cannot be seen as illicit under the FFP, but is rather simply an earning – just as Arsenal’s money from the Emirates is.

Arsène Wenger has said the arrangement threatened not only FFP legislation but the credibility of the European game’s governing body – which just about sums it up.  He called the situation “Platini’s big test” – and there’s no doubt he’s right.  If Manchester C get away with this, then Qatar will do the same in France and Spain.

“It raises the real question about the credibility of the financial fair play,” Mr Wenger said. “That is what this is all about. They give us the message that they can get around it by doing what they want. It means financial fair play will not come in. It is as simple as that. I can understand how they do it but it raises the real question. The difficulty and the credibility of the financial fair play is at stake.

“Plus, if the financial fair play is to have a chance, the sponsorship has to be at the market price. It cannot be doubled, tripled or quadrupled because that means it is better that we don’t do it and we leave everybody free. That can be defended as well, but if they bring the rules in they have to be respected.”

Arsenal’s deal over the Emirates in 2004 was valued at £90m over 15 years with £48m via shirt sponsorship, and naming rights worth £2.8m a year.  Mr Wenger, with his regular dry wit said, “We must have done a bad deal.”

Uefa say that they are aware of the City situation and that their experts “will make assessments of fair value of any sponsorship deals using benchmarks.”

Mr Wenger remains hopeful however.  “It looks to me that Platini is very strongly determined on this,” he said. “He is not stupid. He knows that some clubs will try to get around that and, at the moment, I believe they are studying, behind closed doors, how they can really strongly check it. That is where the financial fair play is at stake.”

Uefa will begin assessing club accounts in 2013-14 season, looking at the previous two seasons to ensure no one made a loss of over €45m.  Manchester C figures showed a £121m loss and the next set are expected to be worse.

There’s no doubt that with four clubs now spending wildly UEFA’s job has just got harder.  They might have taken on just Chelsea – but four across three countries is harder.

The FFP rules require that sponsorship deals must be pitched at market rates – so technically Manchester C have to show that they could have got a similar deal from anyone else.  This is simply unlikely since it is widely accepted that naming rights on existing grounds have little impact.   We call Arsenal’s home the Emirates (well I don’t but many do).  But what do you call Newcastle’s ground?   It isn’t St James Park, but that’s what we all call it, despite the naming rights deal.  Rights deals on existing property are not profitable or popular for this very reason.

And there’s another problem – although Manchester C’s next figures will be worse than the last, they are overall slowing down the expenditure unless Manchester U who have spent £50m plus and mucked around pretending they were trying to buy Nasri (which they were not, but a lot of the little children’s supporters groups believed every word of the tale).

The betting, I guess, is that FFP will give us nothing, as some readers here suggested previously.  Looks like you were right guys, and Arsenal will have to be even more clever to take on these multi-billion pound clubs.

Unless of course you have invented an anti-gravity machine that will make oil more or less pointless.  Now that really would put the cat among the whatnots – especially if you used your anti-grav billions to finance Arsenal.

Untold: the index

Making the Arsenal: when Arsenal were put up for sale

The ex-players who are managers and journalists

26 Replies to “Financial Fair Play, yes, no, maybe? Málaga, Man C & the rest”

  1. While we all agreed with you Tony about the FFP and its justification ,we were all made aware that there were backdoor manouvering going on .It now comes to the first test to see how far Platini et all respond .I have a bad feeling about this and believe that Man Shitty are going to get away with it in the end despite some choice curses and hair pulling.
    I’m just curious what the others are planning to pull out of their thinking hats .
    And forget about oil – invest and corner the water market – thars money in them hills!

  2. As i’ve already said a million times b4, even though the FFP was a very well intended idea, the pillars on which it stood were very weak. Spend only what you earn is a very tricky statement. It can be manipulated in many ways. And hence the rules and regulations should be stricter and more articulate.

    On a positive note, the FFP should be a starting step towards what UEFA has been tryin to achieve. I guess a few more specific and clarity on the rules will really put the big clubs in a spot. For eg, Salary Caps could end the every increasing wages bill in many teams including Arsenal and a proper wage to turnover ratio could be attained. Similarly further steps should be added, only then that FFP could be well a force to be reckon with.

  3. It will be interesting to see how UEFA and Platini wriggle out of this one. AW has rightly put Platini on the spot. However, based on past history we can’t expect too much from Platini/UEFA, but the wriggles may be amusing.

  4. It is sad that Wenger has become the virtual watchdog of the FFP. Agreed, if implemented to the letter, it plays to the strength of how he has been managing the Arsenal Football Club so there is a clear vested interest.

    However, it is surprising that there is a near universal silence or even some resistance to the idea from national FAs in UEFA. Whereas, it is in the long term economic survival interest of the clubs in the national leagues of the UEFA countries that the concept is vigorously supported.

    The question of interest to me is: what would it take to make the national FAs recognize the long term value of FFP to embrace it and to vigorously enforce it?

  5. @laundyender

    What a complete joke!! wtf is wrong with football governing bodies?

    It’s becoming clear now – “just take care of arsenal by making sure barca progresses and reward will be immense”

    Fcuking disgrace!!

  6. Flatulence, Folly and Pageant is emerging as the most fitting description for FFP- i am yet to be convinced that a single european goverment will legislate to restrict large (taxable or not) capital flows into it’s borders to uphold principles of conventional financial stability, in these lean times. With the globe more or less tightening a belt around it’s waist, the old capitalist maxim that wealth creation is best left to the extremely wealthy and the rest of the populace can scratch a living from what crumbs might be dislodged when the table cloths are shaken out, forgive my pessimism but the draw of the extremely wealthy might just offset any niggling impulse to duty for your average politician, i rather fancy we will see law makers jostle to for places at the trough doing their utmost to give a palatable veneer to what is to become another taxation point for the populace.
    Prices can only go up as poorer clubs look to cut their losses and why, better incomes mean higher taxes, but cost cannot be borne by shareholders, they will do what is only fitting and right and pass them on to us, the end users and the cycle continues until we have to accept that loss is part of football just in time for the next wave of “cheap money”.
    The whim of Uefa / fufa to try and include france among european big hitters (which to my jaundiced eye was the point of FFP in the first place) might cool as PSG are now bathing in the lucre of some sugar daddy, surely enough in a years time some other chap might just prop up another French club and that might sate little plantain’s lust for legacy and his pocket and that will be the end of that.
    Just in case anybody doubted my credentials as an arsenal supporter, hows that for a bit of chicken little?

    The sky hss truly fallen in on us now! lol or rather not lol!

  7. Tony

    I think Getafe in Spain have also been bought by someone in Dubai (or Dubai itself). I remember reading something about it, and that Getafe’s club badge will now read Getafe FC Team Dubai. Maybe it was all a joke, but I thought it was real at the time.

    Wenger wasn’t hopeful, he was putting Platini and UEFA on the spot. Daring them to expose themselves, but in the end, ManCity would have already employed a team of lawyers to look for loopholes, and dispatched bags of money to ensure that this deal is legal.

  8. I wonder if Uefa has considered levying medium to heavy financial penalties against all clubs who transgress the FFP regs?

  9. @Laundryender

    Thanks for that link. It fits in quite well with the theory that if matches are refereed a certain way, they will be rewarded. Howard Webb gets his FIFA badges and the World Cup final for ensuring ManU’s success year on year, from Reilly no less who probably reached his position the same way and rewarding the Rooney dive which ensured our unbeaten run stayed at 49. Bussaca gets to be the head of referees after ensuring that the Barca juggernaut wasn’t derailed. Of course, UEFA is entirely well meaning and surely plans to enforce the FFP just as well as they uphold the laws of the game.

  10. Laundyender, Critic, Ugandan Gooner, all:
    You may recall that Cleanie Platini and Septic Bladder not so long ago said that video replay was not wanted in football. That there were protections enough, two refs to be on the goal line, etc. Now with this man’s appointment – he who saw no chokings but preserved the games integrity by banishing RvP -is catapulted to the top. Yes, as the article puts it, The Man who clashed with Wenger. Not the man who can’t see choking but can see red in an after-whistle shot. As an Arsenal fan in Barcelona might have prayed in Spanish: adios mio, adios mio, por que nos has abandonado?

  11. On FFP, please digest Arsene’s statement in Malaysia yesterday, and his philosophy of self-sustaining football:
    The long and fair-minded article by the Guardian give Arsene’s views on this now:
    And the 2009 Times interview, gives Arsene’s philosophy and politics, which are in sync with the position he takes above:
    Why, indeed, would the Billionaire voice of the Billionaire-owned press possibly find any fault with Monsieur Wenger’s stand vs the Billionaire Takeover Model? Flummoxed.

  12. The mogul’s media model (the MMM – once known as mainstream media model), both now and in the future, is to sew up sports and of course football rights first, make zillions and re-invest in further acquisitions to continue to the cycle with its very many perks. So while DP is there calculating his millions of times that the FFP had weak pillars, even though well-intended (in his fact-free world), these blokes have hired others to count their millions (sorry, billions) to be made by end-runs around the fig-leaf that FFP was meant to be from the outset.

  13. Shakabulagooner,
    First things first – you have THE BEST e-name in my book!
    But all seriousness aside, the FAs and majority of teams are gobsmacked at the brazen Shitty challenge, afraid to speak in the face of such blatancy, and, perhaps, know the true, inner meaning of the term: Silence is Golden. Only thing, the gold will not be theirs; and there will be some breadcrumbs – the broadcast rights they earn for being shown on TV whilst they lose 4-0 matches to the Golden Calvers ______ (fill in the blank).

  14. Did anyone hear the latest from the NOTW scandal!
    Don Fergus and the Glazers just sold the naming rights of Old Trafford to Rupert Murdoch! It will be re-named Mordor (where Sauron lives in Lord of the Ring, just in case) because it was so close to Murdoch and it will help console him for the loss of NOTW. Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the water. This clinches it: FFA will fall, Lord Fergus will Lord of the Rings, and the Rednose 20th will unite the realm. (Video replay, anyone?)

  15. @bob:
    “FFP will fall, Sir Fergus will be named Lord of the RIngs, and the Rednose 20th will reunite the realm.” Well, mate, as Laurel and Hardy once stated so eloquently: “What a revoltin’ development this is.” Or was it, “video replay anyone?” (Ah, must be an echo in the chat room.)

  16. Platini has lofty ambitions but will lose all credibility as to his plans if he bottles the FFP . mixed feelings on platini but we just have to hope he knows what he is doing on this one, competitive football as we know it depends on it

  17. Here is a question for you all.

    If everything else stayed the same and Stan Kroenke said right here is 100 million go buy who you like would we all start complaining it’s not fair for Bolton, Wigan etc or because we are Arsenal supporters we would say whatever Arsenal does is ok with me?

    And if he justified it by saying look we have important commercial negotiations coming up so we need ‘names’ to attract higher sponsorships would that be ok? ie sometimes when owning a business you need to make big improvements to gain more customers, charge them more etc.

  18. Jas777, your question is purely hypothetical and never going to happen, but I’ll take you up on it.
    I, for one, do not wish for Kroenke to dish out 100 million. I commend the way Arsenal is trying to develop young and up-and-coming players and only occassionally buying, for a sensible fee (if you consider 10 million sensible), players to improve the squad. But the basis is always youth development. I absolutely am against the way certain clubs spend money like there’s no end to it; in fact, with an Abramovich backing you there is no end.
    And there is no justification for being gifted money. All clubs operate are basically business enterprises and no normal company is gifted money. Indeed, sometimes you will need to invest first to generate more revenue down the line, but the normal way to do it is through bank loans or by issuing shares. Through a bank loan we also managed to get our shiny new stadium. And that’s for me the way to do business.

  19. I mentioned once in an article a long time ago that I do not understand how the deal with the stadium rights works for ManCity. The City of Manchester owns the stadium and ManCity is merely a tenant. Then how is it possible that ManCity gets all the money for the naming rights of an object that is not theirs? Can anyone explain the logic behind this?

  20. Interesting comment from Blatter about the new head of referees:

    “Massimo Busacca’s experience will prove to be particularly useful to our mission and to our efforts to continue the groundwork we have put in place with the confederations and member associations in this particularly important area.”

    Given the way Busacca blatantly gifted the match to Barcelona, we can assume the FIFA’s official line now is that match fixing is okay, even if it’s not very covert?

  21. Although I share the skepticism of all concerned about the likely implications of the FFP rules, here’s the thing…Based on what I’ve seen in recent years, splashing the most money doesn’t necessarily produce the best football. No matter how much money you have to spend, and no matter how many merceneries you bring in, the best football always comes from training the same team together over a period of years. Am I wrong to see that as a cause for optimism?

  22. Timing is everything – if the ManCity sponsorship money (which, in theory covers a lot more than just stadium naming rights0 is used to cancel out the losses already incurred then they will enter the FFP evaluation period with a clean slate. If it’s counted as new additional money then UEFA may have a more tricky problem on their hands.
    Don’t also forget that there was a cost to Arsenal in getting their Emirates money upfront (a lower overall payment) but huge long term benefit in terms of lower mortgage borrowings at lower interest rates than would otherwise have been the case. Indeed Emirates may not even have gone through at all without the money being paid upfront.
    It’s called custodianship (looking at the long term over the short) and it’s what Arsenal do best.

  23. Tony,

    Great follow up article. Clarifies a somewhat complex situation perfectly and enables the financial layman (me, as it were), to understand some of the rudiments of said trillionaire clubs attempts to manipulate FFP. I along with many am pessimistic with regard to the outcomes – but it strengthens my hope that Arsenal will take on these “oil clubs” over the next 20 years. Not only for the good of the game but also for the sake of overt moral issues, namely, what is “right”. Even though like many gooners I am frustrated and concerned by our capitulation over the past few seasons and believe strongly that Wenger has to reassess his playing squad, tactics etc. When viewed as a whole (the bigger picture), I have to measure Arsenal’s financial ethos and self-sustainable model against recent success on the pitch, and I find myself caught between the two (as I believe many gooners also are, hence the overspilling of emotive and passionate debate/reaction). The only positive point I can hold onto is the fact that as a club our stance, whether successful or not (time will tell), is without doubt justified (right), and for me this is to be applauded and respected (sky sports and tabloids take note) and does overide everything else however difficult (and as explained it is for me as well)it is for a large majority of Arsenal’s support to comprehend. If we lose sight of this fact and follow the path of other clubs, then in my mind we lose much of the essence and class of what “The Arsenal” represent and indeed what all of us stand for.

  24. Kentetsu,

    So if you had shares in a business you would want them to borrow money to pay for expansion rather than one shareholder put up money and therefore no interest and more profits to re-invest or pay dividends?

    I know people will say but what if that person leaves? But what if they dont?

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