Bosnian football & EPL – spot the difference

Bosnian football and the EPL by Armin Medic

In a hilly, small Balkans country called Bosnia there is a Premier
League. Which sounds a bit like England – but that’s where the similarity ends.

But even so, we should not ignore the Bosnian League, because of the story that follows…

In the season 2008/9 FK Sloboda managed to clinch a position in the newly established UEFA League, but during the licensing process, the Bosnian Football Federation banned them from further European competitions.

The explanation was simple, apparently there is no place in Europe for teams who owe money.

After this verdict officials of FK Sloboda paid their debts, but the verdict remained the same.

For their next step Sloboda complained to UEFA, but the answer from Andrea Traveso of UEFA was clear, there is no re-evaluation process, and the banning of Sloboda was a final decision.

All of which leaves FK Sloboda in a really critical situation. Their debts are now so high that they cant even afford hosting for the team’s web page, so it remains suspended. The club owes money for communal services, they owe to banks, player salaries… But the
reason Sloboda didn’t get their license are transfer debts.

And that is what get me to point why I found it interesting for those
who follow the English Premier League (hm I don’t know why I write
“English”, even I, a Bosnian, I consider only one league as the Premier
League, and that’s not Bosnian one for sure). Lately there has been the news that CSKA Sofia, the first Berbatov club, want to sue Manchester Utd because Manchester Utd are not paying the Solidarity Fee, what is amount of money every team is obligated to pay to the team that has developed a young player.

It is symbolic: about 1% of transfer money, but its probably much more than all of FK Sloboda’s debts.

And who know, if we would look what is under surface, how many such debts we could find.

Actually I would not like Manchester to be banned, but a warning would be fine. Doing nothing could only make things worse, because when you look through their figures once, you will have to do it whole life.

15 Replies to “Bosnian football & EPL – spot the difference”

  1. Great informative read! Was beginning to lose hope for a post today!

    What’s interesting is FK Sloboda’s Wikipedia page ( itself doesn’t mention anything the club has done since 1992. Even the Wiki page of Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no mention of Bosnian teams in the Champions League / UEFA Cup for 2008-09 (they do have details for 2005-08 though). That might just be because nobody has bothered to update the page, but it still remains a bit strange.

    Their website, as mentioned is ‘suspended’.

    The explanation was simple, apparently there is no place in Europe for teams who owe money.
    Now this is where it really gets interesting!
    – Is this a permanent ban or just for the season?
    – What do you mean by ‘teams who owe money’? Owe it to whom? Financial institutions? Other clubs? Players? Web hosts?

    How does this work? Large clubs which are in debt are allowed to play, while the smaller ones, who obviously need the money a lot more, are arbitrarily banned? I’m sure I’m missing something here, which I’m hoping one of you will point out to me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most of the larger clubs have guaranteed loans & aren’t in ‘debt’ in a way that this club is. Whatever it is, I’d love to read UEFA’s official rule for this. Sure to be some discrepancies there!

  2. So Sagna is the latest in a long line of players reportedly admitting an interest in moving to pastures new. …. [The rest of this piece has been cut]

    EDITOR’S COMMENTARY…. Overseasgunner, I am glad you are reading our site, and wanting to comment, but the way we run things here is that the comments should be related to the lead text. The author from Bosnia who wrote this piece spent a lot of time in discussion with me, planning and then writing the piece in what is not his native language, to share with us his thoughts. It is, to my mind, a little disrespectful to ignore all he has written and to go off into another subject.

    The discussion boards for the past 2 weeks are still open, and I am sure you will find one article there that fits your discussion points.

    I know you have forwarded 3 long commentaries to us, but none of them relate to this topic, so I have not published them. But please do send them in to the right place.


  3. Very interesting article Armin.

    The hypocrisy within the main football authorities from the FA to Fifa is alarming but sadly to be expected.

    Real Madrid were allegedly in default on payment for Anelka but that would appear to be ok.

  4. I suppose it is also to be expected that the ‘doomer’ type will lack common courtesy, as well as possessing outstanding ignorance.

  5. There has to be a distinction about the type of debt clubs accrue. The bulk of Arsenal’s is effectively a mortgage on the new ground, with the balance being to redevelop Highbury. ManU and Liverpool both have huge debts with nothing to show for it. The club’s are financing their own takeover with the new owners not making any contribution.

    There was a piece on SSNs the other day where they mentioned the ownership model of Real Madrid. Apparently RM are not allowed to pay a dividend, any profits have to be ploughed back into the club. Much the same as how Arsenal have been run recently, I do not have information regarding the previous practices but with the vast sums of money in the PL only having existed for the last 15 years or so I’m not sure it’s relevant. Now I’m not advocating anyone following RM transfer policies but if a model where clubs have to invest profits back into the club (which would also see it filter down to grass root level) and strict debt rules was introduced in the PL this would prevent the current situation from spreading and stop people like the Glazers and Hicks & Gillett from destroying the sport we all love.

  6. i am assuming that sloboda could qualify at the end of this coming season as long as they are not in debt at that particular time.

    like marc, i am wondering about their current situation. if they have debt secured on assets its different than if they have run out of cash flow because of the aforementioned unpaid debts. even then surely their accountant could use the money owed to them as an asset to balance the books.

    whatever the case, it seems a bit unfair that they didnt get a crack at the uefa competition.

  7. @JediKnut

    No its not permanent its for this season. Every team have to have “clean” books to get license from national FA by which team can go in to Euro Cups. About whom they owe, I guess easier way to answer on that question is to say that they don’t owe money to me, but I am not sure for rest of the world. Actually yes they owe money to banks, players and who knows whom else. But as they officially stated, they paid debts during “complaining period”. I doubt is it true, but Sloboda is not important, its mater of principals how someone can be banned and someone cant.

  8. They try to make EPL as free as possible but it is obvious there needs to be some boundaries. It’s a shmae for Sloboda but necessary. The problem is the same thing is not universal.

    Anyway, the popularity of this site seemed to have quadrupled tenfold (see, I used two number descriptions there). What was an underrated read has become well known and essential read. Great work by everyone (involved that is. No free kudos’).

  9. Interesting article Armin. It just proves that in football as in most areas of life money talks and the rich get away with things the poor don’t.

  10. What I think is much more interesting is the proposition that two teams in vastly different situations with more or less the same factors existing in their finances will be treated completely differently.
    It might be stating the obvious, but who’s going to care if Sloboda are excluded from the competition? On the other hand, if you exclude a Manchester IOU or Liverpoodle it would be a different story. UEFA would suddenly suffer a sizeable drop in interest in their competition.

  11. Great article Armin.

    As in most things there are one set of ruler for those who ‘have’ and another set of rules for those who ‘have not’.
    there is a lobbying group comprised of the top european clubs and together they lobby UEFA to influence rules and aspects of the game etc. These clubs may be enemies on the pitch but within this group they are very unified because they know that united they stand and divided they will fall under the heel of UEFA.

    With these clubs being the main Champions League contenders, their position is very strong and has been since they threatened to form a breakaway league from UEFA the last time they had a major disagreement. UEFA on the other hand knowing that they cannot touch these clubs tend to take it out on the little clubs who have no way to defend themselves.

    Another example of this was when AC Milan were convicted of match fixing.They were deducted points that would have seen them out of the following year’s Champions league. Michel Platini and UEFA helped them fast-track their appeal so that they would be eligible to play in time for the start of the competition and they went on to win the Champions league that following season.

    Recently a Macedonian club was also convicted of match fixing and were IMMEDIATELY banned from European Competition for 8 years.

    Nothing ever changes really.

  12. Tony – that was a right good ticking off of “overseasgunner.” There are enough web-sites and blogs with inane drivel that do nothing to inform the footballing public of the failure of FIFA, UEFA and the FA to protect the beautiful game from the corruption of money and power that is so evident when one compares the case of FK Sloboda with the ManUs and Real Madrids of this world.

  13. BTW – I am waiting for your piece on RM’s runaway spending. Regardless of whether they are non-profit or not the amounts being spent, even over 4-5 years, just doesn’t make commercial sense. Plus I just read a detailed report, dated that on June 15th Moody’s downgraded the senior debt of 25 Spanish banks. The report specially noted that “”Banco Santander, of “we’re so strong we’re actually going to expand through the crisis” fame, meanwhile, remains under review for possible downgrade.””

  14. @Armin

    Thanks for your answer, and thank you once again for taking time out to give us this piece of news!

    I think you highlighted the corruption of the UEFA perfectly in this piece. As you said perfectly, it is not Sloboda itself which is important, but the principle of the thing. Terence got it spot on too – AC Milan & Serie A are rampant with match-fixing. What happens? Barely anything. Sure, some teams were docked points, and one lost a title, but has the match-fixing ceased to happen? Barely. Compare that to the Macedonian club being banned for 8 years.! Hardly seems like there is a set rule for all clubs / associations. Who says corruption is worst in India!

  15. In Belgium, where I live, there is a policy that clubs should have no debts, which they cant pay or have an agreement with the owner of those debts, or they are relegated to division 3.
    Since this license is installed, Belgium clubs are no longer able to compete in Europe with the big spending clubs like Real, MU and so on.
    If it would be installed in all UEFA countrys and the law would applie to anyone it would bring back better competition I think.

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