The name “Untold” was chosen deliberately for this blog in 2008, because I felt that huge amounts of news and information on football was simply not reaching the light of day through the existing newspaper, broadcast and blog outlets. I think I had a bit of a thought at the time that after I’d launched the concepts of rotational fouling and rotational time-wasting I might find some interesting “untolds” along the way.
Of course the biggest area of work has been Walter’s revelations about referees, but there have been other bits and pieces along the way, plus the work on the fixing of the transfer market, the use of football for money laundering and so on.
And these days none of these areas is more interesting from my point of view that FFP.
It is not just that my insights and guesses have proved to be right (for a change) but the way in which fans of clubs that teeter on the edge – or indeed go over the edge – of Uefa’s financial regulations react.
The vitriol and bile from Man City fans last season which turned up when I was suggesting not just that they were guilty of breaking FFP rules but why they then could not and would not reply to Uefa, was amazing. I was reminded of little children who when caught red handed stealing a piece of chocolate that they’d been told not to touch just deny everything, despite all the evidence.
But when all the world was not running the story, we got it right, and it looks like we are here again with the issue of Liverpool and FFP. Quite a few of the papers are not covering the story, and some have even put the story up, and then within a few hours taken it down again.
What is going on?
Of course I am going to come unstuck at some point, but for the moment the Untold FFP Investigation and Prediction Dept is looking good and I am going to keep going a while longer.
Liverpool go into FFP with a bit of a poor reputation. Their owner might have thought that openly boasting at a major football conference about how he wrong-footed Arsenal by lying about the nature of the Suarez contract, showed how big and bold he was. But it is the sort of thing Uefa notice – and they tend to think along the lines of, “well, we caught him lying here, so can we believe him there?”
The club has been on a spend, spend, spend, campaign, and their transfer of Suarez to Barcelona just at the moment that Barcelona were desperate to buy anyone they could before their latest round of denials over the breach of the child trafficking rules comes to court, has not gone down well. Yes Liverpool did nothing wrong with that deal – but it was exactly the deal Uefa didn’t want to see, just while they are trying to bring Barcelona to book.
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We also have the issue of the Suarez racial slur on Evra and the way the club handled that. It wasn’t impressive.
Anyway I took a punt that their latest wheeze would be to suggest that they could set aside the money spent by their previous American owners on stadia development (the one that never happened) could be used as an excluded cost for FFP, because it was infrastructure development.
It is a clever ploy, and one that I am told Liverpool are indeed using. And the issue is simple. Does it matter whether the infrastructure was developed or ever likely to be developed or not? If this gets through then it drives a hole into FFP and Uefa are going to have to change the rules again (as they have already done several times)>
But at least Liverpool are being investigated by UEFA for possible breaches of their financial fair play rules, as Uefa have reported today, and most of the British press have chosen to ignore – or, as I say, curiously publish the story and then withdraw it.
Liverpool, Monaco, Inter Milan and Roma are the clubs being looked at. All were l absent from European competition last season and have now submitted accounts to UEFA — and are being asked to “fill in the gaps” as they say at Uefa, or “for further information about their finances” as is said in the press releases.
If the problems seem serious and any of the clubs don’t co-operate fully then the first step will be the withholding of this season’s Champions League money.
In the last year or two Liverpool have been going on a bit of a binge in buying players and hanging on to them. The process was very successful on the pitch last season, but less so in the very early days of this season.
The problem is that although the club has been spending it is not clear where the money is coming from. And as we’ve reported before from May 2015 the FFP test will be tougher with the permitted deficit being measured over three seasons (2011/12 to 2013/14).
Apart from Champions League money Liverpool have some problems raising more cash. Commercial revenues have risen, and it is not clear if they will go further and there is a cash flow demand over the stadium building programme, unless the money is all coming in from outside. Liverpool were owned by the now bankrupt Royal Bank of Scotland for a long time, and the interest rates that they have to pay are higher than institutions like Arsenal that have never been bankrupted in the last 100 years.
And simultaneously they have to satisfy the banks that they can meet the bank loans on the new stadium at the same time. And it is always possible that their bank manager might actually read about Rodgers’ spend spend spend plans.
Now there are of course many that say this is all ok, because TV revenue is rising and Liverpool is in the Champs League so the money is rolling in. But all the time wages and transfer fees are rising and as long as Man City are allowed to rampage free, salaries and fees will grow and grow and grow. So all that extra TV money isn’t there to make Liverpool break even – it is going to be soaked up by the rebuilt stadium project (the banks having been brought to their knees by Liverpool FC last time around will absolutely not loan money for the development of New Anfield without seeing where the money is coming from).
Worse they have to do it all again next season, and we have to remember that by 2015/16 there is no exclusion of players signed before June 2010, and the deficit is reduced to 30m euros over three (not two) seasons. Here again that Rodgers approach just won’t cut it.
Which is why Liverpool were so desperate for Man City to get away with their approach of ignoring FFP.
As recently as last spring Henry said, “We really don’t have Financial Fair Play, or at least people are not abiding by it. I’d love to think that Uefa can do and will do what needs to be done, but we’ll see.”
Indeed, we’ll see.
Due to a technical error (my cock up) this article was published in note form briefly. I think I’ve now sorted it.