European Football: Will Game of Money and Power Be Tamed By New Rules of UEFA?

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European Football: Will Game of Money and Power Be Tamed By New Rules of UEFA?
David Cannon/Getty Images
The men who matter: Michel Platini(L) and Sepp Blatter

Let’s face it. Some people are born more equal than others. With the virtue of being so, on many accounts they receive more advantages over the rest. The merit for their being more equal attributes to their money, power, position and many other material and influential factors. What it brings along is a permanent discrepancy and causes collateral imbalance to the health of the society.

The football camaraderie like every other too falls under the shadow of this phenomenon. The club football, that has for years steered the game in a progressing direction has inherently introduced and consequently raised the power of money and influence in the game.

The commercial liabilities of the club owners have been in picture forever – quite logically so – but during the older days, the owners of the clubs felt the team as much as the players and the fans did. With years passing and the success and popularity of the beautiful game reaching new landmarks, it started becoming more and more lucrative and enduring for the business giants to enter into the football market as it prospected to be an exciting commercial venture.

The last decade however, has witnessed money entirely stealing the show. Almost all of the Europe’s elite clubs are owned by the multi-millionaires of the global business fraternity who have left the term ‘finitude’ a meaningless one in terms of spending over the top flight players. The fans-to-player bond seems to be a story of days gone and the power of money has superseded all the concepts of game ethic and team loyalty.

Real Madrid and Manchester City have made their presence the most felt one in the transfer market over last couple of years. The mammoth amount that they have disbursed over an array of players from all around the world has earned them a bulk of talent and at the same time, has disrupted the team composition of the ones who bowed down to them in submission. Several scoffs saying God giveth, Real Madrid taketh away” and “What Real Madrid want, Real Madrid get” became highly popular given the club’s tendency of elongating their budget to an unending squander.

The ice albeit, needed to be broken and the onus lay on few good men led by the UEFA president Michel Platini and boy they did! The congregation assembled over an annual meet came up with a mandate that introduces a set of laws that would stir up a hornet’s nest to say the least. The executive committee of the association has aimed to bring all the clubs in a particular league at the same starting level on the initial point. The idea that is being termed ‘Financial Fair Play’ intends a fair chance for everyone at the European club football and is all set to be put into practice, come the season 2012-13. The concept that was recommended to UEFA by the Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) earlier in August, managed an immediate unanimity from the European Club Association Board (ECA) in a meeting at Nyon in Switzerland.

The mandate reads the clubs would not be in a position to spend more than their annual earnings of a fiscal year. The rule is being anticipated as the one that could stop the business tycoons from overtaking the clubs and turning their fortunes merely by the power of their wealth. The clubs must clear their accounts in order to be eligible to participate in the competitions contested at the European level. UEFA seeks equilibrium to prevail in the European club football which at present has gone for a hiatus.

Whether the implementation of the same would bring the change UEFA wish to see still remains to be the multi-million dollar question but for the time being, it has caused many apprehensions across clubs playing in different topographies of Europe. The implications of the rules aforesaid would bring the manifest changes in the approach of the teams while unfolding their strategies over spending.

ENGLAND

The domestic circuit in England – English Premier League – is believed to be the richest one in the present scenario. Although the league stands second to the domestic competition in Germany, it has marginalised the latter in gathering the highest viewer base on a global scale and boasts of bagging high money deals with the television broadcasting partners. The league, in that manner is in thick of things but just at the next level of segregation, the clubs apparently do not have the same story to share.

“Suffering Losses” is considered to be a better state of affairs for the clubs in a time when most of them are facing “Massive losses”. Three of the famous “Big Four” of English football fall under the radar of UEFA as the new rules set to take a toll.

Arsenal for the moment are best poised having managed a break even with a consistency and part of the credit must be shared with club’s long time manager Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman has always respected the word ‘rationality’ and has rolled his dices accordingly. He has majorly focused on purchases of the French prodigy – players from the French clubs who do not hold enormous price-tags. This has helped Arsenal maintain a financial stability despite having spent big over the newly constructed stadium. Presently they do possess an edge over the others in terms of financial structure with the other three being dug deep in debts.

The ‘have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too’ idea of the other big clubs in England has caused much economic turbulence pertaining to the league and the smaller clubs have found it repeatedly difficult to match with the pedigree of players in the ranks of financially stronger opponents.

As things appear in the initial frame of reference, the Gunners will be most benefited should the rules be implemented unaltered. Chelsea, given their nature to spend big would need their think tank to work out of their skins to manage their balance sheets in order to keep playing in the Intra-Europe competitions. Manchester United have faced recent disturbances regarding the ownership issues and Liverpool have finally sorted out the same. However, both the clubs have not yet been able to streamline their structure and it would be interesting to see what set of measures do they choose to apply to sustain their spots in the elite European competition.

ITALY

The Italian Serie A is anyway in a dangling position and a lot of scrutiny is required for the league to reclaim the lost stature in European club football. The financial matters too are in a sorry state as many of the clubs still do not possess a stadium of their own. The lease money that they pay to the sporting authorities is huge and as a counter measure few have initiated a move towards owning stadiums. Not to mention, the move has assured a budget being redirected towards the cause in bulks.

The league, over the last five years is believed to have been predominantly refraining from spending big. Even clubs like Milan, Inter or Juventus have not shown any signs of interest in the bigger names of world football despite a gleaming history to boast of. Sparing few signings by the Rossoneri in the current season, Italy has mostly chosen to stay grounded and remain silently wise over the matters.

Considering the pragmatism that Italians have exercised over the years, there is no real cause for concern with the limits that the new mandate may put on spending. However, the part of the rule which asserts firmly about the clubs meeting break-evens and settling the account books at the end of each year may itch the Berlusconis and the Morratis a little.

SPAIN

The brows were raised the most in Madrid with the news of new financial laws being unleashed. Under the newly appointed coach Jose Mourinho, the Los Blancos are expected to be regaining the much sought stability in the structure of the squad and the Special one is thought to be putting an end to the everlasting hunt by club president Fiorentino Perez that has been on ever since he assumed the presidency.

Barcelona on the other end seem to have ascertained on an incisive unit that they have composed after some hard manoeuvring under coach Josep Guardiola. However, as one takes a dig into the club’s approach in the transfer window for last several seasons, one thing that is very much evident is the Blaugrana are still much ambitious with the future of the club and they keep bagging few signings that end up raising few questions over their justification in the current squad. This approach, coupled with the irregularities in the commercial bearings that the club has tended to practice may well mar them when facing with the newly introduced laws.

The overall scene in La Liga is not absolutely pleasing as the league’s doors of fortunes have much been knocked only by the two giants in the later years. La Furia Roja too apparently gets formed of the players playing for these two teams and the others are often left stranded in a position where lack of funding lets them being edged past by financially superior compatriots. Given this scenario, the Spanish too may not be much bothered about the regulations announced over the budget to be allotted into the transfer window, but the need to rush to a break even may scratch their necks too.

THE OTHERS

Few teams playing in the national leagues of Germany, France and Netherlands do have their moments for the history books but looking in a larger picture, the leagues as a whole stand nowhere near to the three bigger leagues aforementioned in terms of sustainability.

A major block that the new mandate will place on the ambitions of these leagues is the buys of the bigger names. The clubs under these leagues have been long awaiting a thrifty takeover prospering their stature in the European scene and attracting the bigger players to come play for them.

The newly referred laws would require the clubs to immensely pull up the socks and make several smarter measures to make the accounts book look good. The mandate may see these leagues’ plans of bringing in some of the bigger players being procrastinated for some seasons.

PURPOSE MAY REMAIN UNSERVED

The whole objective as claimed by the UEFA is to induce more equality into European football and eliminate the factor of inherited advantage that some clubs clearly enjoy over the rest with their higher affordability quotient. However, as things seem to be for the moment, the rules would at the same time stop the ‘Smaller’ clubs from investing big as the pressure to balance the books would continually crumble at the back of their minds. Therefore given the situation, all one could say is “We‘ll deal with it when the day comes. Till then, let the show go on.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In a time when the world is under an uninterrupted torment of what the Mayans have said about 2012, Michel Platini & Co. have plans to begin a new era from the scratch in the same year. The world is full of contradictions Goliath, and there is always a David for you!

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