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UEFA has emphasised that its financial fair play measures are crucial for the future of European club football – and has welcomed the readiness of Europe's clubs in particular to participate in a process designed to bring stability and well-being to a sport that remains a No1 attraction for the public.
European football's governing body and club representatives joined forces in Nyon on Wednesday to provide a comprehensive overview of the financial fair play process which is now in full swing, as well as to present the fourth UEFA club licensing benchmarking report for the 2010 financial year, covering financial results from more than 650 top-division clubs across UEFA's 53 member national associations.
The promotional day gave the opportunity to explain the current situation regarding financial fair play and address key questions relating to such issues as regulations and implementation, the support given to financial fair play by football stakeholders, and financial fair play and European Union (EU) legal issues.
The objectives of financial fair play, stipulated in specific UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, are, among other things, to introduce more discipline into club football finances and to curb the excesses and irrational gambling for success which have brought many clubs into difficulty in recent times. Through the measures, clubs are being obliged to balance their books or break even – i.e. not to spend more than they earn – and to act responsibly to help protect the long-term viability and sustainability of European club football.
A Club Financial Control Panel has been set up to monitor and ensure that clubs adhere to the financial fair play measures. These measures are being implemented over a three-year period, with the "break-even" assessment covering the financial years ending 2012 and 2013 being assessed during 2013/14 – starting with the assessment by the Club Financial Control Panel of all transfer and employee payables from summer 2011.
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino stressed the necessity for such steps. "We need financial fair play for club football," he told UEFA.com after the media day. "We need financial fair play for the fans, for the public, but we need financial fair play for the clubs as well, and for the owners of the clubs.
"In a club these days, everything changes – players, coaches, owners, directors, managers – but the fans and the link with the society remains the same," he added. "And this is what we need to protect. And when we look at the financial figures in particular, we have to be worried about the trend and we need to tackle that. We need to establish a safe and healthy environment for European club football to continue to develop and prosper."
Mr Infantino saluted the support and contribution being made to the process by the continent's clubs. "I think it shows that when we developed the financial fair play rules, we developed them in a responsible way, together with the clubs," he said. "The financial fair play rules are there not to kill anyone, they are there to help the clubs to create a good and positive environment. And the fact that all the clubs are supporting these rules unanimously has really shown that the clubs are also mature, and they are responsible."
Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas, a member of the executive board of the European Club Association (ECA), gave a positive message to the Nyon gathering. "UEFA and [President] Michel Platini have taken a courageous decision to call into question a spiral that is not good for the economy of football," he said. "All the clubs and the ECA agree with the modalities. It is a long path, but it is a project that is indispensable for football."
Fellow ECA executive board member and FC Internazionale Milano general director Ernesto Paolillo underlined that now is the time to address the problems of costs within football. "We are convinced that we need these kind of rules," he said. "It is important that UEFA and clubs participate in the restructuring of the football industry. If we look at the total of clubs' debts, we can see the problems that clubs are facing at the moment. So it is the right time to start. And we are ready to start."
In presenting the benchmarking report at the media day, Mr Infantino highlighted that continuously rising costs are a key concern. "The total income of European professional club football has increased from €12bn [in 2009] to €12.8bn [in 2010]. Which other industry has had such an increase? This shows that from a popularity point of view, football is very healthy – the revenues continue to increase in a period where there is a very difficult economic situation worldwide.
"The problem that we have," he went on, "is that costs of club football have increased as well from €13.3bn [in 2009] to €14.4bn [in 2010]. Some 56% of top-division clubs reported net losses. This is really the last wake-up call. This trend has to be inverted very quickly if we want to safeguard European football. Every year income has grown – but losses have grown as well. We need to act quickly.
"There is one fundamental difference when we look at football finances compared with the economic situation in Europe in general," Mr Infantino reflected. "In the last few years, revenues have gone up every year. This shows that, overall, European football is in a healthy financial situation – if we can control the cost side of it, which is why we are introducing the financial fair play rules.
"If we had not taken up the challenge together with the clubs a few years ago," he concluded, "then we would be very worried about the future of European club football. However, we have [acted], and because the revenues show that people are interested in football, this gives us a very positive feeling that we are on the right track."
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