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October 2020
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Is anyone ever going to be held to account over financial fair play rules?

By Tony Attwood

The bodies that run football are by and large self-contained, virtually unanswerable to anybody.  Uefa, Fifa, the FA, the Premier League… they all carry on doing their own thing.   Yes, they are subject to the law, but even then only up to a point, as they regularly claim that by its very nature competitive team sport is a “special case”.

So they make up their own rules, and then interpret them as they wish.  Like tin-pot dictators in countries that don’t even make it onto the third world list, they create the rules and run the courts that see the rules are obeyed.  Law makers, judges and juries all rolled into one.

And the most curious thing is that no one seems to mind.  Certainly not the media which in other fields of life tend to hold organisations to account.  No one actually seems to have any interest in looking at the work of any of these self-contained bodies.

Indeed it is only when one starts to think, who is actually overseeing the FA or the Premier League that one realises the answer is no one.

Which is why Derby County’s recent decision to object to charges brought against the club by the Football League over the issue of the £81m sale of their ground to their owner, is interesting.  Derby accuse the League of acting unlawfully in bringing the charges.  The League accuse Derby of breaking its rules.;  Derby claims the Football League had agreed before the sale that all was in order and that there was no breach of financial rules.

In brief, Derby made a loss which was bigger than anything allowed under the FFP rules, but then sold their stadium to their owner, and so that their loss became a £14.6m profit, and so kept Derby inside the Financial Fair Play Rules.

This sort of manoeuvre is similar to that of Manchester City which got extremely large sponsorship money from organisations that would appear not in normal circumstances be interested in sponsoring an English football team, seemingly to get around the rules.  Man City’s owners said that if Uefa dared bring the case they would sue Uefa in so many courts simultaneously Uefa would run out of money.  Uefa seems to have backed down.

Derby are being less brutal but the club did put out a statement which said, “As a matter of law, the EFL is not entitled to bring either of the charges, having previously agreed to all of the arrangements surrounding the stadium sale and never having raised the issue of player amortisation before.  The club shall argue that the very bringing of the charges itself is unlawful.

“While the club accepts the EFL’s FFP/P&S regulations are complex and open to interpretation, it is critical when such matters have been discussed and reviewed in detail, that written approval from the EFL is the only basis on which a club can be assured it has complied. These charges by the EFL executive bring this fundamental aspect of governance into question.

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“The EFL now claims it made a mistake and seeks to punish the club that relied on the EFL’s approval. Such conduct is neither lawful nor fair … The EFL can choose to correct what they now see as an error in their decisions. However, it cannot punish the club for its own errors.”

In matters that are strongly contested the Football League has a habit of backing off, as with the Financial Fair Play issues surrounding Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers.  Issues surrounding the sponsorship of Leicester and the amount of money the club received were settled but exactly how they were settled does not seem to have been made public.

Manchester City’s case is more complex however.   They lost their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against Uefa’s investigation of them concerning breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.

So Manchester City are still facing action from Uefa for alleged breaches of FFP.  However if found guilty it only means Man City may well be fined – which of course given the money that they are getting from various sources seems a bit ludicrous.

The Athletic online service have stated that Uefa’s rules which should allow Uefa to remove Manchester City from the Champions League cannot legally be enforced, although it is difficult to understand why this is the case. We shall see but thus far, apart from the occasional one or two banned transfer windows, clubs are continuing to get away with anything and everything.

8 comments to Is anyone ever going to be held to account over financial fair play rules?

  • Ben

    That must feel like a kick in the teeth for clubs like Bury

  • Les Williams

    Secrecy by ALL of the football bodies you mention is the problem.

    All the rules pertaining to the game appear to be a very fluid concept where they can mean almost anything one wants and nobody appears to care that this is the case. Watch any game and then read about the way clubs do business – most rules appear to be transgressed with impunity for some in the sport. Both on an off the field.

    Then mainstream journalists say “there is no corruption” in football in this country.

  • Deb

    I’m not against the regulatory bodies being checked, but surely for that to be the case you must be able to prove that they have erred, which I can’t find in the article. And surely clubs will seek legal avenues to challenge punishment, again a normal occurrence. It is left for the courts to decide what is just and if any of the parties have run foul of what is just.
    As have been argued by many ffp might not be easily enforceable since the “fairness” of it has always been in question

  • Gord

    OT: Helping Australia with pizza longer than football field

    The article talks about NFL fields (strange for an Aussie source, but probably okay for real football fields).

    https://abc11.com/5870954/

    The pizza was 338 feet long. Hopefully it raised money for Australian firefighters. Not like The (sweet) FA, which raises money for The (sweet) FA executive.

  • Gord

    OT: Leicester 4 1 State Aid

    PGMO was back in action, tilting field in England. Coote was the twit for PGMO.

    Fouls were 8:14 and Coot gave both sides a penalty. Cards were 1:1 (no reds).

    State Aid needed a treatment at 27m. Sargeant Coote Schultz sees NOTHING.

    Leicester need a treatment at 32m, which requires a substitution. Sargent Schultz see NOTHING.

    Leicester need a treatment for diving Vardy at 40m. Four minutes later, Leicester substitute Vardy. Sargent Schultz seen NOTHING.

    State Aid need a treatment at 55m, Sargent Schultz see NOTHING.

    OT: spuds 2 1 Norwich

    Apparently moaninho was moaning about injuries. With Harry Diver injured, Dele Diver got the first goal (I’ve no idea if any diving was involved). Norwich got an equalizer on a gift from PGMO twit Kavanaugh (penalty). Fouls were 11:7, cards were 0:1. Son (I don’t foul people) got the winning goal for the spuds.

    Spuds inflict a treatment at 33m, Sargent Kavanaugh Schultz sees NOTHING.

    OT: ManUre 0 2 Burnley

    Moss is the twit for PGMO. Fouls are 10:7, cards are 0:2 (both yellow).

    At 6m, ManUre need a treatment. Sargent Moss Schultz sees NOTHING.

    At 65m, Burnley need a treatment. Sargent Schultz sees NOTHING.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I remember when a previous world football dictator who had overstayed his welcome, was ‘persuaded’ to retire , many were heralding the breaking of new dawn in world football.
    Soon we realised that it was still the same old bitter wine in another ( rather more expensive ) bottle.
    When that wine began to go terribly bad , and fast , it left an even more vinegary and Blattery aftertase ,and Sepped too was herred out !

    A much younger ( by name , at least !) replacement was soon found . More like stuffed down the fans throats ! Most of us were nodding to ourselves , that it was the same old , same old codswallop .

    Even the European body was likewise tainted , even though an ex-football great was chosen . Is there hope ? Probably not . Has anyone of name been jailed ? Nada to that too.
    And the gravy train peacefully chugs off into the sunset……

  • Deb, let me try and make my point of view clear for you – and then let us stop boring everyone else with going over and over the same ground.
    Untold Arsenal does not have the resources to prove that anything is amiss in all these topics. In the most general terms all we can do is say that the way things have been organised are curious and can lead to concerns and worries. And then note situations in which elsewhere things are organised differently, and note issues that the media does not fully investigate.
    Of course I can’t prove anything is wrong. The notion that I, with minimal resources could do so is just so bonkers it really doesn’t seem worth contemplating.
    What I can do is point out oddities and suggest that these are enough to make me concerned. Oddities like the sudden dropping of criticism of referees in Radio 5 commentaries. Like the refusal of English media to note Uefa’s statements about match fixing recently. Like the fact that the number of referees in the PL means that the same refs get the same teams many times, which was a factor that allowed the scandals in Italy to happen. And so on.
    None of these prove anything, but are suggestive – just as the fouls to yellow card figures are suggestive, just as is the fact that the PL website publishes so many stats but not that one. Just as is the fact that the media don’t look at that stat.
    And now let us stop going over and over the same ground.

  • Chris

    There is, what a coïncidence, a piece in the Guardian this morning, about City$ and their outright lying to UEFA about their finances.

    Reading it, one discovers that the ‘consultants’ doing the audit for UEFA were PwC.
    Now considering how efficiently they worked to siphon off billions for the daughter of Angola’s ex-president, most of it through Gulf States, one really wonders how well they have done their job….or rather for whom they have done a good job…

    And, sure enough, the story does not question their work (ethic)….