UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules: Why the Players Are the Real Winners

Louis HamweyAnalyst IIIFebruary 24, 2012

In September of 2009, UEFA passed legislation that would require all member clubs to financially break even in financial years ending 2012 and 2013 and assessed during the 2013/14 season. The bill was a way to protect frivolous owners from ebbing to the pressures of rabid fans and running their clubs into inescapable financial debt.

However, on a more broad level, the rules may in fact benefit the players more than anyone. Recent spending has placed price tags on players which are insurmountable to live up to by nearly any standard.

The Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules could end this pressure.

I am no economist or great understander of fiscal dealings (I still have my mom do my taxes), but I am aware that my generation is graduating college and entering the work force in the most down-turned economy we have ever known.

The luxurious opulence of the '90s has had us all raised with a digital spoon in our mouths and set our perspectives on what is wealth to an all-time high.

European football enjoyed massive growth in the 1990s and early millennium, which saw the emergence and distinct classes of clubs no longer set apart by talent and coaching, but rather wealth and the ability to acquire assets.

And just like the recession hit at home for many around the world, football clubs were not immune from its ripple effects.

It is inaccurate to say that bankruptcy in football is a contemporary idea.

Leeds United (2005-06) following bankruptcy
Leeds United (2005-06) following bankruptcy

QPR flirted with bankruptcy and entered administration back in 2001 along with Wimbledon. The tragic fall of Leeds United in 2004 is one of the most notable financial crises in the game.

Even with this past perspective, the very biggest clubs can succumb to uncontrolled spending. Manchester United had reportedly £1.1 billion debt as early as last year. As you read this, Scotland's Rangers FC—one of the most storied and historic clubs in all the game—is on the brink of financial collapse.

Though the amount has changed, the reason for this debt can be found back as early 1915 in then-second division side Nottingham Forest.

Nottingham Forest was one of the earliest clubs to have poor financial foresight to their decisions. In 1915, Forest had to ask committee members to dig into their own pockets to stabilize the finances and was forced to sell off all their players unable to honor their contracts.

Nearly a century later, Valencia was facing a similar issue as their investment in a new stadium left without the finances needed to pay their players to play in it.

So why in 100 years of history is football management not able to understand what every housewife in the world does? You cannot spend beyond your means.

Like an adult holding the hand of a child, UEFA is being forced to enact FFP in order to save these clubs from their own stupidity. But what it is really in fact recognizing and defending are the players themselves.

Nottingham Forest (1905)
Nottingham Forest (1905)

When Nottingham went bankrupt, it was the players who suffered. When Valencia was struggling, it was again the players who suffered. Even when these athletes have every right to get up and walk away from a financially irresponsible club, they still must uproot their lives and start anew elsewhere.

It is often difficult to be an apologist for someone getting paid millions to play a sport for half a year, but imagine if the company you worked for one day was unable to pay your wages—what would be your reaction? Would you feel better if they said to you, “There is someone who is willing to pay you what you want, but it is across the country”?

The FFP is really aimed at making sure that the players and their contracts are honored and will always come first. The players need to be the main expenditure for any club as they are the ones who have the ability to bring in the most profit.

But the FFP is not only designed to make sure players are legally obliged. It will also ensure their expectations remain feasible.

As a Chelsea fan I have suffered through more than a year of Fernando Torres. The once can’t-miss striker has gone from the great hope to laughing stock to pity party since he arrived at Stamford Bridge.

His five goals in 47 appearances for the club are unacceptable for any striker, but when you factor in his English record £50 million transfer fee, it becomes an epic bust unseen before in the sport.

But was there ever really a chance of Torres realistically living up to that price tag? Would anything short of golden boot winner every single year match a fee of that magnitude? Would it even then?

Liverpool fans struggle with the same ineptitude in Andy Carroll. With nearly as egregious numbers as Torres, he has taken less heat—albeit his price tag of £35 million seems reasonable against Torres’.

The truth is, no player is worth the amount of money that the game has structured us to believe they are. Even Christiano Ronaldo at a record £80 million can be easily dismissed when put in perspective—it factors out to Madird paying £655,000 per goal and even then he has only won them one trophy.

So while FFP rules were initially established to protect the interests of the clubs themselves and the integrity of the game, the players are the true benefactors—not only are financial interests ensured, but also their expectations will return back to some sort of sanity.