The Sweeper: Platini’s Financial Anti-Doping Test

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If you find yourself bored by today’s fixtures, or stuck in an elevator, you might consider downloading the sixty-page PDF of UEFA‘s proposed regulations banning European club investors from engaging what is charmingly referred to as “financial doping.” That’s the practice of owners slipping in a telephone booth-sized envelope of their own money into the club books at the end of the fiscal year, ensuring their team stays in the black even though club revenues might cover only a fraction of club spending.  As Matt Dickinson writes, that means:

No more Sheikh Mansour lavishing more than £400 million to secure a place in the Champions League unless he can square the outgoings with Manchester City’s income. No Mohamed Al Fayed propping up Fulham, or Randy Lerner at Aston Villa, unless their cash injections are beneath the limit — to become less than “10 million (£9 million) a year on average — that a sugar daddy can spend.

According to the Times, UEFA are hoping these proposals will cure everything from player wage inflation to top flight clubs going into administration mid-way through the season.  It’s hard to argue it won’t tackle the major problem of private investors artificially propping up clubs whose turnover does not justify their spending.

There will be of course resistance from big clubs, at least to the letter of the law.  Meaning some team boards will already be getting accountants to scour the proposal for what Dickinson calls “loopholes” in the new regulations, like owners “sponsoring” their clubs.  Some have already said these regulations will be very difficult to enforce.  And Dickinson’s fellow Times columnist Patrick Barclay points out there are reservations, particularly from some smaller top flight clubs concerned that preventing new investors from covering initial losses would lock them in a cycle of mediocrity:

There are fears, and the most widespread is that formerly mid-sized clubs will not be able to benefit from sugar daddies, as the likes of Parma and Deportivo La Coruña have done in the past, or as Chelsea and Manchester City do now. Not to mention Fulham, whose debt is approaching twice the size of Portsmouth’s when the latter went into administration.

That could be the cruel irony in Platini’s plans; that they will punish smaller clubs whose investors cover a personally acceptable amount of loss that doesn’t amount to a ripple in terms of player wage inflation or competitive imbalance.  But any proposal that doesn’t attempt to change the English system of private club investment, a system that Barclay writes the English “bizarrely seem to cherish,” won’t cure the underlying disease.  We hope this will at least alleviate the worst symptoms.

Quick Hits

  • Richard Scudamore plays dumb in reaction to the resignation of Football Association chief executive Ian Watmore.  Outside of claiming he “has no power,” Scudamore had some remarks on Watmore’s desire for the FA to get some of the Premier League’s cash bags: “There is loads of stuff the clubs do that is not selfish, greedy or self-centred.  But I will also defend the right of our clubs to retain 84p in every pound we generate to create the product that everyone seems to be enjoying right now.”
  • Meanwhile, the consensus is the Premier League chairman Sir Dave “Man of a Thousand Boards” Richards, with whom Watmore is said to have tussled on the FA board over several issues outlined here, is a complete and utter tosser.
  • Checking in on Charlie Davies.

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