Financial fair play could not come sooner
The Football League has recently voted to impose UEFA’s financial fair play system, which will come into effect from the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
Currently, the Premier League has yet to join the other three divisions of English football in adopting the system.
However, all top-flight clubs (apart from Blackpool) applied for a UEFA licence last season, which means that they will have to pass the financial fair play rules. A breach of the system could result in severe penalties for clubs, with an initial transfer ban followed by a possible points deduction.
Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football League, was delighted with the outcome of the vote. “This is a very important step forward for professional football as it will help our clubs exert greater control over their finances, they have been the catalyst for change and have shown a real desire to self-regulate in this area,” he said.
The announcement could not have come at a better time for English football, particularly in relation to the Premier League. Though some may argue otherwise, last season was a major boost for the top division.
The traditional ‘big four’ in Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, all dropped points consistently. Unfancied clubs such as Blackpool, Wolves and Sunderland, all sprung surprises against their more illustrious opponents.
These teams achieved successful results by living within their means, by making the most of what they had.
Nonetheless, the January transfer window saw the bigger clubs flex their financial muscle once again, with Chelsea signing Fernando Torres for a British record fee of 50 million pounds and Liverpool spending 57 million pounds on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
This summer’s transfer window has already shown that top clubs will spend whatever it takes, despite many being riddled with debt, to break free from the congesting Premier League table.
The one big club that has resisted this temptation and still been able to maintain their top four status is Arsenal.
Whatever your opinion may be of Arsene Wenger, he deserves respect for his refusal to join the ridiculous-spending epidemic that has engulfed the league. An outspoken individual, he has constantly berated the expenditure of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, who rely on their wealthy owners to wipe clean mounting debt.
“Professional football is about winning and balancing the budget. That’s the basic rule, one I fought for. All the rest is half-cheating,” he said early last year.
A passionate advocate for financial fair play over the last few years, Wenger has now got his wish.
UEFA’s system will not only serve to prevent the bigger clubs from controlling English football through financial power, it will also protect the so-called smaller clubs from over-ambitious attempts to match their prosperous opponents.
Remember Portsmouth? Following the euphoria of winning the 2008 FA Cup, Pompey offered players huge wages to join the club. They signed the likes of Glen Johnson, Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe for significant fees.
The Fratton Park outfit then embarked upon a downward spiral that included being placed in administration and finally culminated in relegation from the Premier League. Their plight should be seen as a warning.
Though the English are often sceptical of the motives of FIFA and UEFA, with good reason at times, financial fair play should be embraced. It could help to further strengthen, arguably, the best league in the world, both on and off the field at a time when it definitely appears to need it.