Financial Fair Play (FFP) is a good thing, in theory. But as is often the case in life, something that’s good in theory isn’t always great when put into practice. The ideal of leveling the playing field and stopping certain teams from using their financial muscle to fast track their way to success is, on paper, a sound one. But football, like life, isn’t always that black and white.
Sometimes blanket rules will be administered across the board, and the rules can be harshly applied to someone who doesn’t really deserve it. Recently Man City were found guilty of a breach of FFP and punished accordingly. They had to reduce their Champions League squad, and pay a fine.
The punishment was bullshit in my eyes, and only served to highlight some of the issues, and inconsistencies involved in FFP. I think Man City should be allowed to spend whatever they want, however they want. I think that should be the case for all football clubs. So long as they can afford it.
I get it; there are clubs out there who will spend way beyond their means and essentially gamble the future of the club by doing so. Leeds are the obvious famous example, along with Portsmouth in more recent times, of how off field decision making can back fire spectacularly when the teams doesn’t reach its on field targets.
Man City is not the same situation. The future of the club is not in jeopardy with the money they are spending. Unlike say Chelsea, where the money pumped into the club by owner Roman Abromovich is in the form of loans, the City owners have written off their investment, essentially safeguarding the clubs future.
Lets put aside the moral ambiguity of where the City owners get their money from, that’s another debate for another day; but looking at it at face value, Sheikh Mansour has invested heavily into the first team squad, but also built a brand new, state of the art training facility, they have acquired the stadium from the local council, and are expanding the capacity, they are investing in youth with a new academy and they are even investing in the local area with various projects.
What Mansour has done, or is doing, is no different to me buying a struggling coffee shop, and investing money into turning it around in the hope that it may one day be profitable. I could hire a whole new staff, give the place a lick of paint, improve the menu, diversify the business etc. It may be much smaller scale, but the principal is the same.
FFP however, assumes the position that if City weren’t making money before, then someone shouldn’t be allowed to pump money into them, in the hope that they will make money in the future. This is surely counter-productive, and defeats the “Fair” aspect of FFP. Is it fair that you are only allowed to spend heavily if you were an already established big boy by the time FFP came along? Is it a case that if you weren’t a big boy before FFP, then you wont ever become one after it either? A safeguard for the teams already at the top?
If a billionaire owner was to take over Everton or Aston Villa or whomever, they wouldn’t be able to catch up with the already established status quo. I don’t really think that’s fair either. So long as the ownership and investment is set up in a way that means the club could survive should their mega rich owners hypothetically pull out of the club, then I see no issue with it.
It also brings up the question about what is acceptable and what isn’t under the FFP guidelines. As I’ve said, City’s owners have a pretty reasonable business model, a large scale “speculate to accumulate” approach to things, if you will. But when other giants clubs operate under less sound business model, nothing seems to be done about it.
Real Madrid openly flaunt their Galactico nickname. They love to spend big on marquee players, as many as they can, as often as they can. It’s one of football’s long established traditions that Madrid will break the bank, and the world transfer record, as often as they see fit. But in spite of the enormous marketing appeal worldwide, they often find themselves being bailed out of their debts by the Spanish Royal Family, and have even had to sell and then rent back their own training facilities. Yet, FFP don’t seem to step in whenever they try and add a new Galactico to their ranks.
It also seems odd that FFP would look to punish a team like Man City for having owners who want to pump money into the club, when their neighbors down the road, Man United, have owners who want to suck money out of the club to service their own personal debts. Almost an equal amount of money has been leeched out of Man United as has been injected into Man City over the last 10 years. The fact that the ones getting punished are the owners looking to invest instead of pillage tells you all you need to know about how football is run.
by Andrew Furlong