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'A big milestone' for European football

UEFA has described the news that its financial fair play objectives are in line with European Union State aid policy as a "a big step, a big milestone" for football on this continent.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino addresses the Executive Committee press conference
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino addresses the Executive Committee press conference ©UEFA.com

UEFA has welcomed the European Commission's confirmation that there is consistency between UEFA's financial fair play objectives and European Union (EU) State aid policy – describing the positive development as a "milestone" for European football in particular as UEFA strives to bring greater long-term financial stability to the game.

On Wednesday, UEFA President Michel Platini and vice-president of the European Commission and commissioner for competition Joaquín Almunia published a joint statement on the issue, with Mr Platini thanking Mr Almunia and the European Commission for their "commitment, constructive spirit and cooperation in this joint process".

UEFA is of the firm belief that its financial fair play rules will safeguard European club football's future well-being, and the European Commission's continued support – together with the backing being given by other major stakeholders – is seen as bolstering the financial fair play measures that are being implemented.

The financial fair play objectives are laid down in specific UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations. They aim to bring discipline into club football finances and to curb the excesses which have put many clubs in financial difficulty. Under the measures, clubs are being obliged to balance their books or break even – i.e. not spend more than they earn – and to act responsibly to help protect the viability of European club football for the long term.

A Club Financial Control Panel has been set up to monitor and ensure that clubs adhere to the financial fair play rules. These measures are being implemented over a three-year period, with the "break-even" assessment covering the financial years ending 2012 and 2013 being assessed during 2013/14 – starting with the assessment by the Club Financial Control Panel of all transfer and employee payables from summer 2011.

"It is a very important joint statement," UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said of Wednesday's news after a two-day meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee in Istanbul. "A lot of work has gone into this, we have worked very much together with the services of the commissioner [Joaquín Almunia].

"The importance of this cannot be considered high enough – for us it is a big step, a big milestone in the enforcement of the financial fair play regulations which have the support of all clubs, as well as leagues and players' unions. Here we have a clear commitment by the European Commission. In addition, the statement calls for further cooperation between UEFA and the European Commission, to discuss other issues. We have addressed financial fair play, and we will continue in this cooperation with the European Commission which is very fruitful and very productive."

Mr Infantino reiterated the necessity for financial fair play regulations to tackle worrying trends in the game – confirmed by figures in the recent UEFA club licensing benchmarking report which underscores the debt problems being faced by many clubs, with increasing costs and losses being reported by around half of the top European clubs.

"When we started with the idea of financial fair play, we starting speaking with the clubs, associations and leagues, and we started convincing everyone that we should do it. It is a pity, and it makes us all sad to see what is happening today, where some traditional clubs are basically going bust. This shows that more control is needed, good rules are needed, and enforcement of these rules is needed. I think that [these] cases are opening the eyes of those who maybe still have had their eyes closed, and they are showing that something needs to be done."