Uefa scrambles to save FFP with credibility in tatters after loss
Recriminations at governing body after City’s landmark win Ceferin wants reform after another humiliating Cas defeat
Reforms of financial fair play rules are expected from Uefa within weeks after its credibility was dealt a hammer blow by Manchester City’s landmark victory at the sporting appeal courts.
The verdict, overturning a twoyear European ban, is a major embarrassment for the governing body after it failed at the same Swiss court over sanctions against Paris St-Germain a year ago. In both cases, teams of top lawyers exposed technical flaws. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled yesterday that “most of the alleged breaches” against City “were either not established or time-barred”.
In apparent recognition that its checks had failed, Uefa acknowledged “insufficient conclusive evidence” as the reason behind Cas reducing City’s total punishment to a €10million (£9million) fine, and also pointed blame at its own club finance investigators for not meeting a five-year statute of limitations.
An appeal at the Swiss Federal Court has been ruled out, with Aleksander Ceferin, Uefa’s president, instead set to prioritise “concrete” new FFP measures, which he first raised two weeks ago.
Experts warned, however, that Uefa faced an almighty fight to restore any sense of authority on FFP. “Uefa has now lost its clout as a means of controlling expenditure in football from a profitability point of view,” Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, said. “FFP will still survive in some form, but the break-even model element is effectively in tatters, given PSG had their case thrown out on a technicality.”
City hired a team of top lawyers and five major accountancy firms to crush findings from Uefa’s adjudicatory chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), which had surprised the football world by imposing a two-year ban and a €30million fine in February.
The punishment was said to be based on “serious breaches of the Uefa Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even inWhen formation submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”. Given the case was quashed by Cas yesterday for being “time-barred”, one option for future reform will be to loosen time limits and ease other restrictions on the CFCB in future cases.
Arsene Wenger, Fifa’s head of global development, said last year that he believed a relaxing of the rules was needed in order to permit further investment in the game, so long as checks were put in place.
Uefa launched FFP curbs for the first time in 2009, several years after its former president, Michel Platini, privately expressed concern that billionaire owners would distort the market with their big spending, while other clubs risked going bust trying to keep up.
There remains an outstanding investigation into City’s financial dealings by the Premier League but, given the domestic tier allows a £105million loss over three years, compared to just €30 million at Uefa, any punishment would have
‘This is a quarter of a billion pound victory for City, that €10million fine is just an insignificance’
to be on the grounds of an alleged ethical breach.
Investigations domestically are understood to also focus on reports in Denmark that the club had an agreement giving them first refusal on youth players from FC Nordsjaelland and the Right to Dream academy in Ghana, run by the Danish side’s chairman, Tom Vernon.
The precedent has now been set for City to escape all serious charges, Maguire suggested. “This is a quarter of a billion pound victory for City, which renders that €10million fine an insignificance,” he said. “It’s now going to be very difficult for Uefa to pursue future cases. Clubs will now look to assemble the most expensive legal teams and then seize upon whatever technicality they can find.”
Maguire believes the precedent set by Cas yesterday could even be felt in the English Football League, which allows losses to be offset by loopholes such as stadium sales or loans. “Sheffield Wednesday and Derby may be thinking, ‘This could bode well for us’,” he said.
Armstrong 12, Obafemi 90+6
it has come to the task of trying to capitalise on Chelsea’s slipups since the turn of the year, Manchester United have resembled a timid teenager struggling to find the right way to ask a girl on the date he longs for. The will has been there but not the conviction, so closing the deal has remained frustratingly elusive.
Boxing Day was the last time United had won after watching Chelsea drop points in the Premier League, since when they had failed on five occasions to take advantage of their rivals floundering. They can now make that six. As the clock hit 96 minutes, United looked like