By Paul Nicholson
October 5 – “Reform or die, and reform had better happen sooner rather than later,” was the unequivocal, if not evangelical, message from Emanuel Medeiros, CEO of ICSS EUROPE, at the Leaders in Sport conference in London.
Speaking at the presentation of the first independent report of the Financial Integrity and Transparency in Sport (FITS) Global Project which examines the facts around and the main challenges facing the financial integrity and transparency of the football industry, Medeiros painted a bleak picture of the progress being made and saying that “financial integrity in sport is (still) in serious trouble”.
“What has changed since the Panama Papers were released? Where are we as a society and business in terms of expectations? Why in the 21st Century are we governed and supervised like we were in the 19th Century?” he continued.
While Medieros acknowledges that “important advances” been made by many sports bodies, he questions what is happening in Europe, for example, with financial integrity surrounding clubs, and in particular with player transfer regulations and desperate need for financial integrity in the marketplace.
The FITS report is equally condemning in its analysis of football’s financial integrity weaknesses and raises multiple issues. Its findings and estimates include:
- Only 25% of clubs globally produce financial reports showing they know how to account and DO account publicly
- Only 40% of national associations globally produce financial reports showing they know how to account and DO account publicly
- Only 23% of top European clubs (playing for places in European competition) are financially viable
- Only 35% of top European clubs have control of player costs (wages and transfers)
- Only 40% of national associations globally are financially viable without the help of FIFA
- There were €1.3 billion of outstanding taxes of top European clubs (playing for places in European competition) in 2013
- Over 70% of the revenues in club football are generated in Europe
Medeiros is not all about doom and gloom as football drives itself further into the financial integrity abyss.
He puts forward a 6-point plan as a pathway to tackling the problems:
- Governance reform at all levels of the game
- Robust and enforceable financial standards
- Urgent enhancement of FIFA’s transfer management system
- Disclosure of the ultimate beneficial owners of clubs
- A review of FIFA regualtions on intermediaries, especially regarding third parties interfering in the transfer market
- Enhanced co-operation of all interested parties and the creation of an independent multi-stakeholder integrity body
To achieve all this is a daunting task, but as far as Medeiros is concerned it is non-negotiable. Asked whether he felt FIFA president Gianni Infantino was the man to deliver on these issues he replied with an unequivocal endorsement saying that he felt he “will deliver what he promised. He has the expertise, the insight and the opportunity”. Let’s hope he has the backbone as well.
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