The UEFA Club Licensing Committee has met in Nyon to discuss a whole range of topical issues within club football including financial transparency and financial fair play.
Financial fair play
Committee members were informed of the progress in relation to discussions on financial fair play including those between UEFA and a group of experts, as to how to tighten up and improve on the current financial requirements of the licensing system.
‘X-ray of football'
A 60-page report, which is a small but significant step to increasing transparency across Europe, was then presented and discussed at the meeting - an example of how club licensing can reach beyond simple governance by regulation by encouraging discussion and interaction between member associations and their clubs. The report, which will be shared between licensors and their clubs and then made available to the public, includes a broad-ranging financial review, a review of how licensing is implemented, and features a sporting profile across UEFA member associations, including figures on stadium ownership, attendance trends and coaching qualifications. Giangiorgio Spiess, the Club Licensing Committee chairman, described it as "an x-ray of football across Europe".
"From a club licensing perspective, it provides a clear picture of how clubs are structured in Europe in the different countries, and what are their financial strengths or weaknesses," he said. The report is based on anonymous club-by-club information across almost 600 clubs and over 50 countries, and is therefore able to provide an idea of the similarities and differences of club football between and within countries, for example, on the number of clubs in each country that exceed different income levels.
With experience of licensing increasing year by year, the committee was also provided with an overview of the assistance and compliance activities undertaken in the previous six months. On the assistance side, activities had included a Geneva meeting with 150 licensing experts from across the continent, three further major workshops, and 22 bilateral site visits focusing on specific licensing issues and developments in each country. While the metamorphosis of the Club Licensing Manual into a set of regulations has already been completed, the work to ensure compliance with licensing standards continues, with UEFA club licensing officials carrying out eleven compliance visits covering 47 clubs this season.
While a number of criteria - ranging from medical care to stadium and coaching standards - have to be met by clubs before they are granted a licence, it is their finances which come under the closest scrutiny. The requirements covering the financial sector were tightened in the first half of 2008 to include cash flow forecasts and more detailed rules regarding overdue transfer payments and payments to club employees. The failure to comply with financial criteria was a significant factor in 45 per cent of the 126 licence refusals across Europe. The onset of adverse financial conditions can only reinforce the importance of club licensing, and in particular these financial criteria.
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