By Tony Attwood
It has been a long time coming, but now we are there. The question is to be asked: are the Financial Fair Play rules that exist European and Football League competitions, legal?
First out of the blocks were the Football League clubs – Leicester City, QPR, Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers are said to be the front runners in terms of taking legal action against their league over FFP. The European clubs will not be far behind. And it all happens in the coming months.
The rules in the League were introduced to try and stop clubs bankrupting themselves by spending everything they had plus a load more in the gamble of getting into the Premier League.
But these rules are set out against a backdrop of the fact that clubs that come down from the Premier League into the Championship share the parachute payments which run to £59m over four years.
It is indeed just about money. Cardiff won the Championship by making a £31m loss. For Hull it was £26m. (And that’s before we think about the changing of the club’s colours or name). And the model has been seen as a way into the big time by those who are interested in owning a Premier League club but don’t want to pay the price. Leicester City, Watford, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United are just four more names of clubs being gobbled up by overseas owners ready for them gaining Premier League status.
Now it seems the solicitors acting for some of the Championship and League One clubs with most invested and most to lose have got their lawyers lined up and have issued the customary letter before action.
And one of the arguments is interesting: it is that the Championship and League One rules are not the same as the Premier League rules and that this is a restriction of trade. But the clubs voted for it, and the majority of clubs like it since it brings down salaries.
In essence the clubs can lose £3m plus a further £5m if that is paid into the club by the owner. If the clubs don’t stick to this they are banned from signing players from next January, until such time as the spending returns to the FFP established limits – limits which go down year on year.
If the club is promoted it gets fined. Leicester under the current rules will be find around £19m – the money going to charity.
Watch Arsenal Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv
And among the bigger clubs playing in Europe, the limit of €45m in total in terms of losses across 2011/2 and 2012/3 will come into play for the start of next season.
76 clubs (around 30% of those involved in European competitions) are being investigated. The list undoubtedly includes Manchester City and PSG.
The first cases – probably the “minor cases” will be decided by the end of April, and all results given by the end of June. The legal challenges will start immediately after. All results will be made public.
Appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport will be heard in July and August.
Since these time scales incorporate the end of the European competitions this season and the start of them next season, we can expect a certain amount of heat to be generated, plus the normal level of lawyer created confusion.