A few years ago, the UEFA President, Michel Platini introduced plans for Financial Fair Play.
Personally, I’m not totally in favour of the proposals but I appreciate the rationale behind them (basically, to ensure that clubs live within their means) and I can respect their merits.
Although they apply to all European clubs, they did, at the time, seem to be largely an attack on the nouveau riche in the English Premier League.
Bolstered by Abramovich billions, Chelsea had gone from Premier League also-rans to consistent Champions League contenders (and, indeed, winners) in just a few short years.
Manchester City have been threatening to do the same for the last couple of seasons.
However, at the time the proposals were floated, it was found that the Premier League’s 20 clubs, far from being “rich”, actually had a combined debt of over £3 billion.
Clearly, some were running well beyond their means with no hope of Champions League salvation in sight (West Ham, for example, had reported a loss of over £90million over the period 2005-2010). Portsmouth were by far the worst example, though, and if ever there was a case for the introduction of some financial regulation then they were it.
As a result of the impending FFP regulations (or perhaps in spite of them, I don’t know) Abramovich does seem to have changed his approach in recent years and seems to have tempered his own funding in an attempt to get Chelsea paying for itself. There does appear to be some controversy over how it was achieved but the last accounting year showed that Chelsea had had its first ever profitable year since Abramovich took over ten years ago.
Even Manchester City have been much more subdued in the last couple of transfer windows – seemingly in an attempt to give the books some semblance of respectability.
But now I’m a bit confused.
It seems our English clubs have been far more careful of late and are trying to act sensibly in the irrational and emotional world that is football but what do I see from Platini’s homeland, France?
Paris St Germain and Monaco are suddenly spending money like it’s going out of fashion.
Prior to being taken over a couple of years ago, PSG had recorded losses of some €19 million and was carrying a debt but, backed by the new owners, were suddenly able to become the biggest spenders in world football in the 2011-12 season and, by all accounts, this summer is likely to see a similar amount of money being spent (in excess of €100 million).
Monaco are obviously not, strictly speaking, a “French” club but they do play in the French league and are generally regarded as a French club.
These too were bought by a billionaire a couple of years ago, were relegated to Ligue 2 but have now regained Ligue 1 status.
In recent years, we have become accustomed to seeing top names linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, City, United but now the front-runners appear to be PSG and Monaco (some reports suggest that Monaco are lining up a €100 million bid for Ronaldo. Whether the reports are true or not, is irrelevant, the fact that Monaco have the financial clout to make the rumour perfectly believable is the point).
So, what does Platini have to say about all this? He seemed pretty outspoken about it when English clubs were spending crazy money and reaching Champions League finals almost every year.
Well… not a lot, it seems. Suddenly he claims to be “powerless to stop it”.
One of the things that has often been said against the FFP regs is that owners could simply “sponsor” their own clubs with silly-money deals from other business interests but this has always been dismissed by UEFA as they say that such things will be market-tested and anything obviously completely over-the-top would be investigated.
PSG has been bought by Qatari investors and, towards the end of last year, they set up a sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority worth some €150 – €200 million per year with the club…
As I said at the start, I personally have no problem with any of this on a footballing level (I do have reservations about Qatari influence for other reasons quite outside of football which I won’t go into here) but I do find the seemingly double standards quite strange.
But when a Frenchman turns a blind eye to what happens at French clubs, one of which is owned by the people who employ his own son, I suppose I shouldn’t find it all that strange.
C’est la vie.