By Aaran Dehal
“This approval is the start of an important journey for European football’s club finances as we begin to put stability and economic common sense back into football.” – Michel Platini, UEFA president.
Who would have thought we would live to see the day when the common fan agrees with a statement from UEFA?
But with the debt that some clubs are accumulating worse than ever, football authorities are finally starting to hit back and do something which would benefit the common fan.
For example we finally have UEFA stepping up to the mark. They are trying to make a stand against this reckless spending from some clubs by implementing the financial fair play rules, which stipulate that clubs that want to play in the Champions League or Europa League can only enter if they break even over a rolling three-year period. So effectively the clubs can only spend what they earn.
Finally UEFA are doing something that would actually be for the benefit of football instead of chasing their own agenda.
By forcing clubs to live within their means, maybe they can curb these clubs and their owners from wanting to “live the dream” and keep themselves away from financial ruin.
And Stephen Morrow, the Head of The Department of Sports Studies at the University of Stirling, believes it has been a long time coming.
“It’s a really good initiative from UEFA, one that is long overdue. It will provide a very welcome change and provide some fairness to competition again. Clubs will no longer be able to go and spend beyond their means now, not if they want to be involved at the highest level.
“But the challenge will be whether UEFA can implement and regulate this policy. It’s going to be a massive challenge for them to implement, especially against the bigger clubs. Will they (UEFA) follow through with it against these big clubs and actual ban them from a European competition or is it all talk?
“For the sake of football, I hope it isn’t the latter.”
Now we just need footballs’ domestic authorities to revise their ‘fit and proper persons’ test so that they do actually weed out those who are not worthy of owning and running our football clubs. We cannot afford to have another situation like Portsmouth or Leeds United and we need the F.A. Premier League, the Football League and the F.A. to set their egos’ aside and come together to come up with a tighter set of regulations that will see our clubs safe.
There are many approaches that those in charge of our game could take.
But the one approach many people have suggested adopting the approach that our German counter-parts have implemented, which has seen the most of the country’s teams actually making a profit as opposed to the crushing debt that seems to engulf and ruin most of our clubs in England with only three German clubs thought to be in debt.
Stephen Morrow isn’t entirely sure if the system would work over here though.
“It is a very attractive system that they’ve put in place over there; there is no doubt about that. They seem to have kept the tradition, while adding a modern twist to it.
“But it’s hard to see how we would get from where we are now to how the German’s have it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
They implement a ‘50+1’ rule that essentially prevents any investor immediately purchasing a majority stake in a football club, while every club has the same majority owner – the fans, who maintain 50% of the shares plus one.
This, in theory, is a fantastic rule. It puts the power of the club back into the hands of those who care about it the most, which is proven with the ticket prices which cost around half the price of an English Premier League ticket. It also proves that if you invest in a German club you have to prove that you’re in it for the long term, which is not the case in England. Just take a look at the situation Portsmouth found themselves in.
But of course every idea has its good and bad points. The bad point that is argued with the ‘50+1’ rule is that it reduces the German clubs competitiveness in European competitions, yet if UEFA’s financial fair play rules are really enforced then this would cease to be a problem.
There own domestic league remains truly competitive as well without denting any of the excitement. If anything the fact that the league is so open would make it probably the most exciting league in the world. Everyone is bored of knowing that the same two/three teams will challenge for the title in England. So to have a competitive league would make a refreshing change; imagine having any of 10 teams challenge for the Premier League title, instead the same old two or three teams.
Not to mention that the Bundesliga has had the highest average attendance of the major European leagues (Premier League, Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A) for the last 5 years, consistently hitting the 40, 000 mark. So not only is there league truly competitive, they also fill out every week.
Surely that is what we all want; a fair and competitive league with our clubs financially secure with the stadiums full to capacity every week.