When the rules to FFP were released a mate of mine wondered if a club would ever ignore them completely to try and win domestically (because it’s a UEFA measure there are no penalties for not adhering if clubs aren’t in European competition). Monaco it appears were way ahead of us. The only difference seems to be that everyone else is ignoring it too.
This was the summer when the impending FFP rules were to have Europe’s leading clubs turning over a newly sensible leaf. Instead they’ve smiled and nodded sagely and spoke bravely about sticking to the rules then carried on exactly as they always had anyway. In the case of Real Madrid, fresh from spending over £50 million on young Spanish talent, they’re having a serious go at breaking the world transfer record for the second time in four years. And this for a player in Gareth Bale that everyone linked to the club seems to be lining up to describe as overpriced. They couldn’t be clearer about not giving a shit if they tried.
Monaco though don’t even have to pretend to worry about meeting the targets until they get into Europe, presumably at the start of next season. They have a few things going for them. Firstly, players signed before you qualify for Europe don’t count in the regulations, so they can go as wild as they like before then as long as they’ve done most of their shopping this season. Secondly, they’ve signed only young players with resale value, meaning if they had to sell to fund purchases later they’d be able to generate perfectly allowable capital that way. Thirdly they don’t have to pay tax. Which is a pretty good position to be in.
And this is part of the reason why FFP in its current form hasn’t a hope in hell of working. Trying to apply the same criteria across European boundaries is impossible when it doesn’t take into account the widely differing financial circumstances that the clubs in different countries run under. German teams are already held to trying to break even. Clubs in Spain have previously been able to rack up enormous debts with Government support. In France, within the same country, you have two clubs spending money with massively different financial rules imposed on them. When an attempt to have Monaco’s privileged tax position is defeated in court how can UEFA hope to impose any sense of parity on clubs existing under different laws?
And that’s before you start thinking about a system that lets the bigger clubs continue to spend the most. Real Madrid’s possible signing of Bale will probably be fine by the regulations when you consider he’d be joining the club with the highest turnover in the world. Then there’s the sponsorship deals that the Arab state clubs have signed; after FFP was announced both Manchester City and PSG both suddenly discovered massive sponsorship deals from organisations linked to their owners. There’s been talk of anything above market value being investigated but it sounds anything but a simple process.
It all comes down to whether or not UEFA could or would ban clubs from the Champions League for not adhering to it. It only has a chance, and it’s a slim one, of being taken seriously. And that’s if they throw the first one of the big boys taking the piss. Real Madrid would make the best example. Given that they play in a league when along with Barcelona they’ve managed to hoover up all the resources to such an extent that there’s no hope for any of the others (and that’s not an exaggeration, they’re the only two clubs in their division with a net transfer spend this summer). I can’t see them even trying to make the regulations work. They’re gambling on being such a part of the elite that the Champions League couldn’t do without them, a bet they’re sure to win. Monaco, whose face isn’t quite as familiar and who at the minute are sticking exactly to the letter of the law, are far more likely to be made an example of.