Aug. 15 - UEFA's bid to loosen the link between European football clubs' spending power and their on-pitch success. Penny Tweedie reports.
Football clubs across Europe are this month adjusting to a set of new financial rules - Financial Fair Play - dictating they cannot spend more than they earn. They've been introduced on the back of massive financial transactions surrounding the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo - the world's most expensive transfer ever... It cost 80 million pounds sterling to transfer him from Manchester United to Real Madrid. Compare that to the transfer price of top footballer Kevin Keegan in 1977 - Liverpool sold him to Hamburg for half a million pounds. And it is these huge volumes of money swirling around the world of football and the commensurate financial insecurity of many clubs that has lead to the new rulings. Football analyst, Simon Chadwick says the intense competition to win has lead to the present problems SOUNDBITE: Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport Business Strategy & Marketing, saying: (English ) "Underpinning this chase for success is player acquisition and remuneration and clearly for a number of clubs this involves spending huge amounts of money on transfer fees and players' wages. As a consequence several clubs have gone into severe financial difficulty but more than that what it has created is a sense of competitive imbalances; so for instance if you look at the Champions League you will notice over the last ten or 15 years that predominately it is English or Spanish clubs that have won the Champions League - the feeling is they have bought their success." The new regulations are the hard won brain child of UEFA president, Michel Platini who hopes they will revolutionise the way football is run . They target debt laden clubs because the key plank stipulates clubs must not spend more than they earn. He hopes it will level the playing field for the 660 top division clubs scattered across 53 European countries. But already there is evidence that those who stick to the rules could be at a disadvantage. Arsenal has behaved impeccably - but is losing top players like Cesc Fabregas who has just transferred to Barcelona . SÕUNDBITE: Arsene Wenger, Arsenal Manager, saying: (English) "Yes - we lost a world class player and we are sad about it - we did fight to keep him ." There are fears that the new regulations may be unworkable. Larger clubs with backing from rich owners could possibly get round the rules with huge sponsorship deals. The penalty for not complying is exclusion from UEFA competition - but there are those who fear UEFA will recoil from banning the big crowd pullers like Manchester United. SOUNDBITE: Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport Business Strategy & Marketing, saying: (English ) "If you go back to the inception o the champions League in 1992, this has really been the goose that laid the golden egg for UEFA in commercial terms and that's been built up on the likes of Manchester Untied, BArcelona, AC Milan being successful - so whilst UEFA and Platini have to be seen to be ensuring the sustainability of the industry and have to be seen to be tackling the issues of debt and losses at the same time they also got to be very careful that they are not excluding the very clubs that lead to the commercial bonanza that UEFA has encountered." Club commercial directors say if the FFP criteria are not applied rigourously to all clubs - the playing field would be even more uneven than before. However clubs do have wriggle room with two years to balance their books before the full force of the new regulations is imposed. Penny Tweedie, Reuters.