by Patrick O’Connor
There are signs that the football world is beginning to wake up to the dangers of financial excesses.
English clubs, especially the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Portsmouth, are amongst the worst culprits and for some time now the Premier League has shown a disgraceful lack of interest in tackling the problem, but now comes news that clubs who spend beyond their means could be banned from the Champions and Europa Leagues.
European football’s governing body UEFA have approved rules which would force clubs to manage their finances in a sensible way: Clubs will only be able to spend what they themselves generate and big cash injections from wealthy benefactors (that’s you Chelsea and Manchester City) could also be restricted under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play plan. The scheme is being phased in and bans would not be able to be imposed until the 2014-15 season.
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said: “The main rule is the break-even requirement which will be phased in over the next three years; “It is not as easy to swallow for everyone but everyone understands it is necessary. They are there not to punish clubs, they are there to help clubs. We don’t want to kill anyone, this is why we have a phased-in approach.”
The rules will also forbid clubs owing money to their rivals, players and staff or the tax authorities by the end of the season.
Big transfer fees can still be paid but clubs will need to generate sufficient funds through ticket sales, TV money and commercial revenue.
On the face of it, this seems like excellent news. The only downside is that three years may give those owners still wanting to extract an unfair advantage plenty of time to find a crafty way around the rules.
Another UEFA move has seen them extend the five-official experiment to next season’s Champions League and Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Contrast this with their illogical stubbornness to introduce any form of goal-line technology and you can see that officialdom still has a long way to go before they pass the common sense test.
Financial concerns continue to rumble through the English game. Championship side Crystal Palace, who have been in administration since January, are to make 29 staff redundant. Palace only just avoided relegation and are still without a manager.
Their gates will however be boosted by the arrival of another London side in the Championship next season after Millwall beat Swindon 1-0 in the League One play-off final in front of over 73,000 fans at Wembley.
Another cash-strapped Championship club, Watford, have been able to ease their money worries by cashing in on their extra-special connections. Pop superstar and former Watford owner Elton John is now an honorary life president and he staged a concert at the club’s Vicarage Road ground on Saturday with proceeds being used to help bring in new players. The club’s chief executive officer Julian Winter told BBC Three Counties Radio: “Our ability to trade in the market for players without this support from Elton would have been difficult. The profit made will allow us to fill a few holes we have in our squad.”
Like Palace, Watford were involved in a relegation struggle last season and came close to entering administration. Now they will be hoping that players bought with a little help from that man Elton will see them rocket up the league.