Money talks: UEFA ready to revamp FFP rules as another 200 clubs fall into the red

By Samindra Kunti

March 25 – UEFA has said it could fundamentally overhaul the Financial Fair Play (FFP) system, owing to the economic reality of European football during the Covid-19 pandemic and the clubs’ need for liquidity. The governing body has began a consultation process with the industry’s relevant stakeholders. 

At a virtual presentation on policy discussion on financial sustainability in European football, co-hosted by the European Parliament and UEFA, the governing body’s director financial sustainability and research Andrea Traverso said that the decade-old regulations introduced by UEFA could be subject to “adjustments” and said that the existing set of rules is “somehow purposeless”.

He said: “The pandemic represents such an abrupt change that looking to the past is becoming somehow purposeless. Maybe the rules should have a stronger focus on the present and the future, and should definitely have a stronger focus on the challenges represented by high level of wages and the transfer market.”

In light of the global health pandemic, which has ravaged the finances of European club football, Traverso acknowledged that “rules must evolve” and “that they are not set in stone” with clubs struggling to comply with the break-even requirements of FFP.

He painted a bleak picture of the continental club game, while expressing his hope that recovery would be swift. Activity in the transfer window declined, pointed Traverso out – a drop of  40% in the summer transfer window and a 56% decline in the recent winter window, and 200 profitable clubs have entered “into loss-making territory.”

“Covid-19 has generated a revenue crisis and had a big impact on the liquidity of clubs. In such a situations, clubs are struggling and they are struggling to comply with their obligations,” said Traverso.

Last March, the European confederation introduced a temporary relaxation of FFP rules, but Traverso remained coy as to whether that relaxation would be extended.

“The solution obviously is not easy,” he said. “You can imagine you have to deal with more than 700 clubs in 55 different territories. These situations are very different between the territories and also within one country. The situations are very heterogeneous. So in this respect, we have to be very careful. We have to analyse the situations in there. And we have, of course, to consult with all the stakeholders and then – and only then – a decision would be taken.”

He could not offer a precise timeline for potential modifications to the FFP rules, with UEFA set to introduce their third continental club competition, the Conference Cup, this summer and major changes in the landscape expected in 2024, but Traverso said that the consultation process has commenced and expressed his hope to wrap it up by the end of the year.

Financial Fair Play was the brainchild of former UEFA chief Michel Platini, and was aimed at trying to ensure that clubs could not simply buy their way to success. A relaxation of the current systems would give more freedom for the richest clubs to spend big in the transfer market. If so, the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain could stand to gain at the expense of other clubs for whom balancing the books has been a key priority when trying to sustain success.

Last year Man City had a two-year UEFA ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) despite showing what CAS described as a “blatant disregard” for UEFA’s investigation into alleged FFP breaches.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618091984labto1618091984ofdlr1618091984owedi1618091984sni@o1618091984fni1618091984