D3D4 Football Columnist and Walsall Correspondent Darren Young takes a look at how clubs are strictly (cough) following the Financial Fair Play laws…
Is FFP Just Taking The P***?
I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth having what is known within football circles as FFP, or Financial Fair Play [titter from the back] to give it its full name, a ‘break even’ [more tittering] rule introduced in 2013.
Some influential people within the game insist there is, and that’s why the La Liga President has complained about Paris St-Germain and Manchester City for ‘peeing in their pool’.
No doubt UEFA or FIFA will be looking into the claims in less time than it takes to open a middle-finger investigation, although you never know which rule book they are playing by. The one that stops Leicester City signing a player because a form was 14 seconds late; or the one that turns a blind eye to decades of corruption.
They are calling it ‘financial doping’ but I get the feeling they’ve invented that term simply because football couldn’t find a big enough doping crisis of its own like cycling and athletics and didn’t want to miss out. But is it a crime to flout FFP? Should we even have FFP to begin with and has there indeed ever been FFP in a global sense at least?
Javier Tebas, of La Liga, said that not only had Dubai City and Qatar St-Germain been caught peeing in the pool but that Neymar himself had been peeing from the diving board. Furthermore, the French club are ‘laughing at the system’. He also said it was like someone was giving out biscuits to some people but not others. There seems to be an awful lot of fairly minor felonies being committed in football at the moment.
So, is breaking FFP regulations a minor offence, a major crime or something we should ignore altogether? Even the wise, old gripper of the purse strings, Arsene Wenger is beginning to realise that it’s a crime that can be too easily carried out and not effectively policed. He thinks an end to the rule is probably nigh or that, at the very least, regulations will be even more relaxed [stop that laughing now and stay behind after class].
As the fan of a League One club, this doesn’t really make much difference to us on a day-to-day basis. EFL clubs operate under their own FFP regulations that seem to work and ones that were implemented to stop clubs mismanaging themselves and spending more than they had with catastrophic results. Less fair play and more making sure they can still play if it all goes belly up. It’s there to protect fans as much as anything in that respect – which the global rules don’t do at all. Try being a Monaco fan right now.
But the lower leagues of English football are a million miles from the kind of Financial Unfair Play that Senor Tebas is talking about. The scale of the PSG’s spending is larger than the whole of the EFL combined but the way it has come about is more relevant to smaller clubs because it comes about when a very rich person/city/country has decided they want to pump a small fortune into it. And that can happen to any club at any time. Including the lower leagues of the EFL. In theory, at least.
And would we turn it down if it were our club that was targeted by someone with very deep pockets and likely not anywhere near as much sense who was writing blankety blank cheques on our behalf?
It’s not something a Walsall fan like me gets too concerned about but never say never. If another billionaire Chinese businessman decides the West Midlands is the centre of the footballing universe, then there aren’t too many clubs in the area who haven’t been picked off already.
They might decide that a club with a stadium ripe for upward development, right next to major transport links and with its own neon sign and Sunday market is just too good an opportunity to pass up as a cheaper route to the pot at the end of the Premier League rainbow, just as long as they plough £30m plus into transfers or get Neil Warnock in as manager.
Sounds daft? A few short years ago we were doing the League 1 double over a team with a smaller stadium – and without its own neon sign and market – called Bournemouth. Money can take you a long way in this game.
For example, did Blackburn fans complain or worry that their 1995 PL title was mainly financed by one, significantly wealthy man?
Did Man City or Chelsea care that they didn’t need to add 20,000 seats to their capacity to become a top, top, rich club?
If Qatar want to own a football club and trade all their surplus oil for footballers then, in essence, why shouldn’t they? OK, so they might have killed the competitiveness of Ligue 1 in un blow but do you think their fans give a merde about that?
And if Qatar (other oil rich states are, of course, available) wanted to buy Walsall, and foist Neymar on us plus cover the loan of Kylian Mbappe for a season too, I for one, wouldn’t object.
Of course, once we had safely negotiated two promotions and sat safely in the PL, I’d want regulations introduced to make sure no other small club could do the same. But that’s the real benefit of FFP isn’t it?
The big European clubs don’t want PSG outmuscling them financially but they’ve been kicking dirt in the other club’s faces for years without challenge. Some have leveraged huge debts, other had help from banks that liked to say yes or even governments. They have negotiated TV deals that made the rich richer and the poor poorer.
So why shouldn’t another, less-equipped club benefit if someone with a mega-fortune wants them as his plaything? As long as they have a plan for when the toys get thrown from the pram. But that’s the risk/reward assessment we have to make.
But please don’t use FFP as a way of killing the dream for other clubs that haven’t yet been lucky enough to find an investor. Don’t use it to stop people giving biscuits to them too.
Because if it happens to your club, whoever you are, you’d be laughing and peeing in the pool all day long.