By Tony Attwood
As has been apparent for some time Uefa are now certain to change the FFP rules in the favour of Manchester City, PSG, Monaco, Chelsea and a range of Russian clubs. The official view is that Uefa never wanted to stop what they call “owner investment” (what we call “pumping so much oil money into a club that it becomes beyond the bounds of possibility not to win the league”), so they need to modify the rules.
The unofficial reason for this is that Uefa doesn’t have a big enough legal team to fight the ten legal challenges to their warnings for next season. The unofficial unofficial reason is that Chelsea and Man C’s executives have had better imaginations than Uefa and have been introducing franchising and wholesale loaning, to by-pass FFP.
There is just a chance however that Fifa will step in to nullify Chelsea’s player loan scheme in which the number of players that it has on loan is growing exponentially, and at the current rate of growth will be bigger than the rest of the Premier League put together in three years time.
In one year’s time, the summer of 2016, emergency loans will come to an end. Emergency loans happen outside the transfer windows, and seem to have grown up primarily in England. They are in fact a flagrant breach of the transfer window rules, but Fifa has taken its time shutting them down.
They should have stopped three years ago but the Football League argued that they needed them to stay in business. Fifa gave three years extra grace and told the FL to sort out its business so it didn’t need emergency loans. The FL, which claims it is a different type of league from other leagues in Europe, have pleaded a special case but to no effect.
But the FL lost and emergency loans stop next year, so any league club that runs out of players, runs out of players until the next transfer window. However there are also rumours circulating that Fifa wants to amend the whole loan market, in order to counteract the Chelsea approach, which other clubs are now looking to follow.
But if as now seems likely FFP withers on the vine Chelsea will have no need of its “if it moves, get it on loan” policy which has led them to have around 30 players out on loan this season.
As for Man City, Uefa is saying that stopping them opening a franchised team in every continent, and then every country is Fifa’s job. The family dictatorship that owns Man C have identically branded teams in Australia, the USA and England, with talk of clubs in South Africa and Brazil coming on stream. Fifa quite like this because it uses up at least one of the stadia in each country left empty after the world cup – and empty stadia in flailing economies never make good news stories.
Platini’s interview on Radio Luxembourg (well RTL as I should call it, but I still like the name us oldies used to know it as) said “The world is two-faced but we will say this openly: I think we’ll ease things, but it will be the executive committee who will decide if it is to be eased or something like that, and the outcome will be known by the end of June.
“I think the regulations have been very good and it is the clubs who voted for FFP.
“But the French press say it is not right that [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich can buy many players and in France they cannot buy them. But if the Qataris had bought AC Milan the French would also say we should make financial fair play even tougher. As it is, the Italians wanted it eased.”
Tucked away within that statement is the revelation that Uefa know exactly what is going on in terms of Qatar buying up the world of football, and they are fairly fed up with it. (Meanwhile, there has been more trouble within the home of the winter world cup, and I’ll come back to that in another article).
Jean-Louis Dupont, the lawyer who is taking Uefa to court on behalf of the oil funded clubs said, “When the exact content and scope of these changes are known, we will consider with our clients how this development, which on first sight appears favourable, is likely to meet their legitimate expectations and influence the conduct of ongoing actions.”
Either way, the dream of controlling the oil rich seems over. What is rather sickening is that the clubs (especially Man C who are involved in the world-wide franchising scheme) and their lawyers have presented FFP as something that favours the rich established clubs and that this is not fair. The notion that allowing Man C to buy everyone they want, and to set up endless franchised sub-units across the globe, while only pay the UK treasury £3m a year in rent for their stadium, is itself fair seems rather odd to me.
If we think of the history of football it is clear that there have been clubs that have accumulated wealth and those who have not. When Arsenal reformed itself after the awful years under Billy Wright the club was faced with a Man U side that earned ten times Arsenal’s income, because of its worldwide marketing achievements. Arsenal fought back by building better teams, and eventually a better stadium.
When Arsenal were sinking fast in 1925 with a stadium only one third full and relegation on the horizon, Arsenal brought in Herbert Chapman in order to play themselves into a position where the stadium was regularly packed and so the money would once more roll in.
So tight were the regulations that in the 1930s when Sir Henry Norris took £100 from the sale of an unwanted old team bus and put it in his business account rather than the club’s bank account, he was banned from football for life. How far we have travelled – but I am not at all sure it has been in the right direction.
So having just fought its own way back to a level playing field, Arsenal are heading back to where we started and some more creative thinking is needed. We’ve got the stadium, the tradition and the income. Now we need the new ideas.
And I think there are always other ways forwards. Remember in the early part of this century, clubs all over the place spoke of “doing an Arsenal” and bringing youngsters through. It is something we have continued to do, with Bellerin and Coquelin being this year’s examples. If this process can be expanded further and further, it could still help outwit the effects of money being splashed here there and everywhere.
However maybe that’s for another article.
As it is, with the Premier League having already abandoned their own FFP, the mantle of FFP now moves to the Football League. They have been rigorous in implementing it in League One and League Two and most of the Championship clubs have gone along with it. QPR are the stand out cases of having ignored the whole thing, and this retreat by Uefa will give them hope. Questions have been asked about Leicester, although with them staying up, that issue has now been set aside, since to their eternal shame the Premier League don’t help the Football League sort of the FFP issues of promoted clubs.
Bournemouth is the other oddball. Their finances seem to suggest all is ok, but… I have nagging doubts. At the moment I don’t have the time to pull all their info together. I would like to however.
More on them anon, but today, I leave you with the sad news, FFP is slipping away. The oil billionaires along with the Middle East dictators and oppressors have won the day.
Never mind. Creativity has always been one of Arsenal’s strengths.
Strange days, Amusing days…
19 May 1907: Budapest 0 Arsenal 9. This was the 7th game in two weeks on Arsenal’s first ever overseas tour. Curiously the club played Budapest again the following day, and the result was a 2-2 draw. Earlier in the tour Arsenal had played SK Slavia twice. The reason for these arrangements are not known.
19 May 2013: Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1. Arsenal ended the season with a 10 match unbeaten run . Koscielny scored and Arsenal retained their position in the Champions League while Tottenham fans celebrate an imaginary Newcastle equaliser which would have given them the European place.
We tweet @UntoldArsenal, often for reasons that are not always clear at the time.
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