Football finances were back on the agenda in Geneva as the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play workshop gave delegates from across Europe a chance to take stock of what is a constantly evolving sector of the game.
The workshop, now an annual event on the UEFA calendar, enabled more than 100 licensing managers and experts from all 53 European national associations to reflect on developments during the 2009/10 season and consider how these will shape football finances in the immediate and longer-term future.
It has been a year of unprecedented activity for UEFA's Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Unit with the publication in June of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (2010 edition). These regulations have as a main tenet a break-even requirement for clubs, and will be phased in over two seasons from next summer before being fully enforced from the 2013/14 campaign.
Licensors attending the workshop on 9 and 10 September were updated on recent activities and briefed about UEFA's ongoing licensing programme, with information provided on the implementation of the top division club licensing system for season 2010/11.
Sefton Perry, UEFA's benchmarking manager, highlighted that 611 clubs applied for a licence necessary for entry to the UEFA competitions in 2010/11; of those clubs, 20% fell short of the criteria, including five clubs that were refused access to the UEFA Europa League on licensing grounds.
Club licensing, a key project introduced by UEFA for the 2004/05 campaign, is applied throughout Europe. This work is now being reinforced by the Club Financial Control Panel, an independent body of financial and legal experts which was established in March 2009 to verify that licences are correctly awarded by national licensors and that clubs fulfil the requirements set out in the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations.
Umberto Lago, a member of the CFC Panel, illustrated the compliance work being carried out by the panel, giving details of the decision-making process. As an example, some 35 clubs from 11 countries had their compliance audits reviewed in 2009/10.
"The CFC Panel already met several times last year and carried out its work in full independency and impartiality. For the time being we have supervised the correct application of the club licensing criteria, including the case of RCD Mallorca," said Lago, "but in the future our tasks will increase and we will monitor the correct implementation of the newly approved financial fair play requirements as well."
UEFA's head of club licensing, Andrea Traverso, explained the improvements to club licensing which were approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in May and became part of the new regulations. Various criteria such as transfer payables, youth development and financial disclosure have been fine-tuned significantly while the central importance of supporters has been enshrined as a stipulation.
The regulations, which contain dedicated UEFA Club Licensing and UEFA Club Monitoring sections, were heavily influenced by the financial fair play concept which the UEFA Executive Committee originally rubber-stamped in September 2009. The concept's primary objectives are: to encourage financial fairness in European competitions, decrease inflationary pressure on salaries and transfer fees, and promote long-term investment in the youth sector and infrastructure.
The nuts and bolts of the financial fair play measures enclosed within the regulations were presented in detail, and representatives of UEFA's club licensing unit responded to questions about financial fair play from the lawyers, accountants and technicians that make up the licensing network.
"It is important that the associations understand the new rules in detail. Their task will be to immediately inform the clubs about the new rules," said Andrea Traverso, "because the financial commitments entered into by the clubs today will have an impact on their ability to fulfil the new requirements in the future."
The pan-European group of experts also had the opportunity, notably in the form of group discussions, to share experiences, know-how and examples of best practice. The workshop was the latest platform for UEFA's efforts to increase transparency and financial fair play in the game.
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