August 7th, 2012
04:32 PM ET

Will big football clubs beat Financial Fair Play rules?

Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has symbolized PSG's lavish spending. (Getty Images)
Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has symbolized PSG's lavish spending. (Getty Images)

Chelsea sign Gazprom as a new energy partner. Inter Milan sell a stake in the club to Chinese investors. Manchester City bank a record sponsorship deal with Etihad.

Yes, many of Europe’s top clubs are already looking for ways around UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

What UEFA wants to do is easy to understand. European football’s governing body is aiming to level the playing field and stop the rich becoming richer, and the poor becoming poorer.

That is why it has introduced FFP, which is supposed to regulate clubs’ debts and control personal investments made by billionaire owners.

The rules state that if clubs incur losses of more than $60 million over a three-year period, they will be subjected to heavy penalties, including exclusion from the premier Champions League competition.

The first assessment will take place after the 2013-2014 season, and clubs are already being judged on income and expenditure.

The world's best-paid sports teams

It is no coincidence, then, that many are trying to find loopholes in the laws. Over the past couple of seasons, in addition to the cases mentioned above, we have seen Barcelona sign their first ever shirt sponsorship deal, Manchester United looking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from a U.S. share offering, and even AC Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi exploring options of Russian investment through his good friend Vladimir Putin.

What will be interesting to see is how creative teams will be in order to keep up their spending ways. I believe the top clubs will always find a way to live above the rules, or at least find a way to circumvent them.

Which brings us to Paris Saint-Germain. The question is - what are they thinking? If you take into account how much money the French club's Qatari owners are spending, there is no way they are complying with FFP at all. So let’s look at their options.

First of all, PSG are already making the most of the fact their chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi is also the owner of TV channel Al Jazeera. The Middle East-based network has paid a fortune for the rights to broadcast France’s Ligue 1, and a big chunk of that money will go to the Parisiens.

Will football clubs play fair financially?

I am also expecting PSG to sign a naming rights deal for their stadium, possibly with a Qatari-based company, and even get a few new commercial partners to boost their yearly income.

It is the only way they will come close to balancing the books after spending over $150 million during the current transfer window.

So what is the moral of the story? It is my belief FFP may have some effect on European football in the future, and may help in some areas of the game, but there is no way that it will change its landscape.

At the end of the day, big clubs are like top brands and they will always find a way to make money. Whether it is by a sponsorship deal, a preseason tour or investment by new partners, the options are there to be exploited.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. XxBodyThiefxX

    And the rich get richer... Football is just another commercial venue, while there's such large ammounts of money involved, the big clubs WILL find loopholes within the loopholes to keep milking the paying fans.

    Yes, clubs WILL keep raking in the cash with sales of jerseys, sponsorship rights and tv air time, which – unfortunately – means spending big on big players, to milk the fans big... The warm, wet circles keep getting bigger, wetter and warmer...

    Then again, there are clubs like Arsenal that do NOT have sugar-daddy owners paying (transfer) bills, that keep clean financial books and that still manage to keep afloat, qualifying year in and year out to the Champion's League, even after selling their world-class players (Cesc, Vieira, Nasri, Henry, Flamini, Adebayor, etc.) to fund a competitive – if unasuming – Champion's League team...

    IF (and that's a B.I.G. IF) FIFA was REALLY thinking of leveling out the field, then they'd have to start by banning sugar-daddy ownership, Qatari stadium sponsorships, yearly jersey / kit changes and preferential treatment for tv air time... Which, of course, will NOT happen ANYTIME soon?!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  2. sam

    look at newcastle united (howay the lads!). they spent minimal last season and the season before, looking for talent rather than players with massive price tags who are supposed to be talented. they finished 5th in the league, beating Liverpool (who had spent major money) and chelsea. A good scouting team and the desire not to pay over the odds is all you need. TOON ARMY !

    August 8, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • bentyler15

      I agree, it has paid off for the Toon and now they can start building stronger after their strong finish last season

      August 19, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
  3. Jacque

    Fully agreed on your comments (XxBodyThiefxX)

    August 9, 2012 at 6:35 am | Reply
  4. Naya ismaila

    I really think real madrid will never be relegated to segunda because they have lost money.

    August 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  5. Dan

    I'm no expert on the matter and it appears our friend Pedro isn't either. This article is weak, nothing we didn't know already.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:23 am | Reply
  6. Becca1028

    It is certainly going to be interesting what happens to Paris Saint Germain in the years to come. I do have to correct some mistakes of the author however, particularly in response to the name rights of the stadium. As of right now Parc des Princes (the home stadium of PSG) is considered a French national landmark, and as such the team needs to apply for a number of permits to be able to complete changes. I highly doubt that the French government is going to agree right away to changing the name of the stadium. They have already stated that they will not allow any major structural changes to the existing stadium.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
  7. gazza

    To add my opinion, the Uefa FFP Rule is a stupid one. Why? Football is a business and if some Qatari sheik chooses to invest in football such that he will initially lose billions with the hope that the club will become profitable in the long run that is his choice. Why is UEFA trying to regulate ppl's investments. Even if someone chooses to put billions in football just for the fun of it, with no hope of positive returns, it is his own money and no one should tell him how to spend it.

    UEFA FFP RULE WILL NOT LEVEL THE FIELD IN ANY WAY. The biggest beneficiaries of this rule is the big clubs who are already established with huge fan base and huge revenue streams. For the smaller clubs, they become even more disadvantaged. One, the bigger clubs will no longer pay them big money for their players because they want to be profitable by any means possible to comply with the FFP rule. Two, the smaller clubs will forever remain small because sugar daddy owners will no longer be interested in investing in football.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  8. Nobody

    What about teams in the Premier League like QPR who are buying like crazy and won't be hit by any silly ban from the Champions' League?

    August 23, 2012 at 4:13 am | Reply
  9. michael

    Why is it Platini hasn't said a word regarding PSG but premier league clubs are like satan's children when it comes to FFP is this another anti premier league stance why is it its ok to be in £1 billion pound of debt but an owner cant pump money in every time FFP is mentioned by Platini manchester city is the only team mentioned is it the old order of europe content with the status quo there by limiting the chance of someone breaking up there little click

    August 29, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply

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