UEFA has emphasised that its Financial Fair Play measures are aimed at protecting and bringing greater financial stability to European football – with UEFA taking the lead role in protecting the game on this continent from, as General Secretary Gianni Infantino put it, "greed, reckless spending and financial insanity".
Mr Infantino was speaking at a media briefing at UEFA's House of European Football on Friday, in which the European governing body gave an update on its Financial Fair Play measures and objectives and emphasised its determination to act against third-party ownership of footballers.
The UEFA General Secretary said that Financial Fair Play had been necessary because record sums of money coming into football were not staying there. In 2011, for example, a UEFA review of more than 3,000 financial statements showed that only 3% of costs were youth investment, and 4% were for investments in stadiums and other assets. In addition, while revenues had increased, costs had gone up even more, creating a dangerous situation for the game's overall well-being.
"Financial Fair Play basically proposes to help the clubs live with their own revenue in a sustainable way," Mr Infantino reflected, adding that the measures had the support of European clubs and the European Commission. "This is not a project of UEFA or whoever else; this is a project of European football. Everyone is supporting it, all those who care about the viability of football in the future."
"UEFA is not seeking to exclude or isolate clubs," Mr Infantino added. "FFP is there to help the clubs and European football – but of course UEFA is not afraid to take the necessary measures to protect the game and to maintain the integrity of its competitions."
The briefing included an update on activities of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), a two-chamber body which oversees application of the UEFA club licensing system and financial fair play regulations.
From this current season, clubs must ensure they break even – meaning they do not spend more than they earn – and monitoring work is ongoing, including requests for additional information and audits if necessary. The CFCB investigatory chamber is set to reach its decisions in late April; any cases referred to the adjudicatory chamber will have their final decisions in June; and decisions by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on any appeal cases are expected between the end of July and mid-August.
Of the 237 clubs monitored for break-even requirements, 104 are exempt due to having income and costs of less than €5m, 57 clubs have not been requested to submit additional information, while 76 clubs have been asked for additional information.
Mr Infantino stressed that Financial Fair Play will not lead to a situation of "ossification" in European football. "We are told by some that this rule is intending to preserve the current situation, and that those who are currently rich will remain rich, and that the poor will remain poor. This is completely wrong, because FFP is about financial sustainability in European football. In fact the application of the break-even principle will lead to a more competitive and sustainable football sector in Europe."
Clubs who were being managed in a sound financial way, and who were investing in the training of players and infrastructures, Mr Infantino said, were now enjoying sporting success, after enduring financial difficulties in some cases. "We see that these models are absolutely possible," he explained. "It is also likely that new investors will be attracted to European football if there is greater financial sanity.
"Financial Fair Play will encourage competition on a more effective and efficient basis. A policy which encourages clubs to invest in youth academies, community projects, stadia and infrastructure will enable clubs to generate sustainable income in future which will mean they are better placed to compete on the pitch."
UEFA will issue its sixth benchmarking report – a 100-page financial, structural and competition profile of European football – in March. The report, previewed at the briefing, will show that the Financial Fair Play measures are having a positive effect.
The positive trends include latest figures on overdue payments to employees, and for social taxes and transfers, which show a marked drop over the past couple of years. Balance sheets of top European clubs have strengthened by €500m in the past year, showing that a key Financial Fair Play break-even requirement, that club deficits have to be covered by committed funds rather than loans, is having a major impact.
Turning to third-party ownership, Mr Infantino said that UEFA aimed to prohibit third-party ownership in its competitions in line with a clear mandate from its Executive Committee.
"Third party ownership threatens integrity of competitions – if the same individual or company owns or controls various players at different clubs, this could influence results," he said, adding that there is also a moral and ethical concern about the appropriateness of a third party owning the economic rights to another human being and then trading this asset. Contractual instability, transfers driven by players' owners purely interested in profit and significant revenue being lost to the game were also major concerns.
"Nor is third-party ownership compliant with Financial Fair Play," Mr Infantino concluded. "Clubs could rely on speculative investments from a third party to acquire players they cannot afford." He stressed that UEFA is ready to act on the issue and that a decision has been made in principle to prohibit third-party ownership in UEFA competitions.
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