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.
“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.
- Arsenal’s finances: another loss but going the right way
- WSL 2022-23 Arsenal v Everton – Match Preview
- Which Arsenal transfer tale is being repeated the most often?
- How much have Arsenal’s rivals spent on transfers in recent years?
- Why is it becoming so difficult to find a sponsor for new football stadium?