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UEFA's financial fair play concept is now well-documented and moving into another gear – and the kick-off events of the 2011/12 European club football season gave UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino the opportunity to tell UEFA.com about the reasons for the introduction of measures that are designed to bolster the long-term stability of the European game.
The concept was approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in September 2009 and has been given the backing of the European football family. Among its aims are to encourage clubs to compete within their revenues, to protect the long-term viability of European club football, to introduce more discipline into club football finances and to reduce pressure on salaries and transfer fees and limit inflationary effect.
Many clubs have been experiencing financial difficulties in recent times, in particular as a result of the economic situation in Europe. In UEFA's third club licensing benchmarking report on European club football – published earlier this year and covering financial results from nearly 650 top-division clubs from UEFA's 53 member national associations – it was noted that more than half of the continent's top clubs reported losses, with no fewer than 28% of clubs reporting significant losses equivalent to spending €12 for every €10 of income.
Gianni Infantino said that clubs are being encouraged to spend less than they earn and show greater financial pragmatism. "If you look at the increase in revenues in recent years," he said, "they have constantly grown, even in spite of the general economic situation in the world or in Europe. For a few years now, we have been moving from one economic crisis to another – and yet when it comes to football figures, the revenues go up ... always.
"The problem is not only that revenues go up, but that costs grow in a way which is exceeding these revenues," he added. "For this reason we have developed the financial fair play rules, as they will certainly reward those clubs which are managed in a proper way. The financial fair play rules basically say, 'You cannot spend more than you generate'. They will bring back some more rationality in football and they will reward those who play within the rules and have a sound and sustainable business model."
A Club Financial Control Panel has been set up to monitor and ensure that clubs adhere to the financial fair play requirements – and in May 2010 the UEFA Executive Committee approved the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations which have the support of all stakeholders in European football. Financial fair play measures will be implemented over a three-year period, with the break-even assessment covering the financial years ending 2012 and 2013 and to be assessed during 2013/14. Starting now, the Club Financial Control Panel will be assessing all transfer and employee payables.
Mr Infantino feels that the financial fair play measures are already beginning to have a positive effect. "Already now, clubs are more cautious in what they do and how they spend their money," he said, "so the level of losses, the level of debts as an indirect consequence, will certainly go down for club football. It will become more sustainable, healthier, and it will attract even more investors and sponsors and partners to make the game prosper."
Financial fair play also provides for sanctions against those who infringe the rules. "When we introduced the financial fair play rules, we introduced them together with the clubs. We established these rules not to sanction or to punish anyone – we established them to help club football, to assist the clubs. If the rules are not respected then I think UEFA has a reputation of being hard but fair – so if the rules are not respected, there will be sanctions which will be taken; the ultimate sanction is exclusion from UEFA competitions.
"However, a sanction on a club will not be the key to the success of the rules," the UEFA general secretary concluded. "The key to the success of the rules will be if the financial situation of European club football improves. We are very confident of this, and this is the objective that we want to reach."
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