Financial Fair Play is Broke

September 5, 2012 in Transfers

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A few days ago, Zenit St. Petersburg opened their chequebook and ripped the spine out of Portuguese football, signing both Porto’s Hulk and Benfica’s Axel Witsel in one paralysing swoop. They weren’t cheap though; at around €40m each, one is equally as shocked at the price as well as the location of this move. But it isn’t an isolated incident.

This window, Paris St-Germain bought Lucas Moura for €45m. A lot to gamble on a teenager, but the added experience of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for a combined €51m really set the tone for their summer transfer policy: buy success. Even if they still haven’t won a game.

Manchester City, after being as cautious as possible and looking for value in the market (here’s looking at you, Jack Rodwell), decided to throw caution to the wind on Deadline Day and signed Javi Garcia for £16m, Scott Sinclair for £8m, Maicon for about £3m and Nastasic for £12m and Stefan Savic heading to Fiorentina (BARGAIN).

What does this all add up to, apart from about £215m?

Well, if my calculations are correct, a massive slap to the face to UEFA.

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play was voted for implementation in 2008, intended to stop generous benefactors funding club’s success using “gifts” of money. It does this by insisting that clubs (at least) break even, and only spend any profit they generate themselves.

“Fifty per cent of clubs are losing money and this is an increasing trend. We needed to stop this downward spiral,” UEFA President and legendary footballer Michel Platini said. “Living within your means is the basis of accounting but it hasn’t been the basis of football for years now… the more money you put into clubs, the harder it is to sell at a profit.”

This policy is all well and good in principle, and was meant to be implemented this year. Penalties included withdrawal of prize money, a ban from European competition and, to begin with, a transfer ban that has been dropped because of legal advice.

But regardless of whether the entire principle is a good idea or not, whether the proposed punishments fit the crime, or even whether you think your club is being unfairly victimised or correctly praised, the deals outlined at the beginning of this article undermine FFP’s very existence. This is the season where it was meant to begin making a difference, yet Paris St. Germain and Zenit St. Petersburg especially have rendered Michel Platini’s “principles” a joke; the punchline being Hulk and Axel Witsel playing in front of arguably the world’s most prejudiced fans for oodles of cash.

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