Financial fair play focus in Dublin

UEFA's Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play workshop in Dublin has served to highlight the positive impact of UEFA's measures to safeguard club football's financial stability.

Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) member Brian Quinn addresses the Dublin workshop
Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) member Brian Quinn addresses the Dublin workshop ©Sportsfile

A momentous year for club finances was reflected upon at the 12th annual UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play workshop in Dublin.

In addition to reviewing the major events of the 2013/14 season, the workshop provided the perfect platform to discuss how club licensing and financial fair play can continue to evolve, and how European club football's prosperity can gain further impetus on the back of the successful results achieved since the introduction of the club licensing system in 2003.

The annual event brings together all 54 UEFA member associations, and this year brought an added dimension to the discussions around club licensing and financial fair play matters with the attendance of delegates from world body FIFA and three of UEFA's sister confederations – AFC, CAF and CONCACAF.

Some 140 participants attended the two-and-a-half-day event which was opened by the CEO of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), John Delaney. The welcome speech was followed by a keynote address from the chairman of the UEFA Club Licensing Committee, David Gill, who stressed the important role that national associations have played in embracing club licensing and financial fair play, and noted that close collaboration with the clubs, good governance and rigorous financial regulation will be of benefit to all stakeholders.

"The results obtained during the first year of the full implementation of the financial fair play measures have been encouraging, and UEFA has demonstrated the appropriate action to fight systemic overspending by certain clubs," David Gill told the workshop. "Furthermore, recent figures show a decrease in the aggregate net losses of top European clubs from €1.7bn to €0.8bn over two years, thus providing a concrete sign that clubs are reacting and adapting their strategies to the new environment. Financial fair play is now part of the footballing landscape, and it is very important that all clubs have embraced it."

Andrea Traverso, head of the UEFA club licensing and financial fair play unit, provided a comprehensive review of activities in the 2013/14 season. This included a summary of the 2014 licensing decisions, which saw 562 top-division clubs undergo the licensing process, with the UEFA licence being granted to 453 clubs, as well as an overview of the first assessment of the break-even requirement as part of the full implementation of the financial fair play requirements. Overall, six clubs were not admitted to the 2014/15 UEFA club competitions on club licensing and financial fair play grounds, and the positive impact of financial fair play was illustrated by the continued reduction in the total of overdue payables to just €8million from a figure of €57million in 2010/11.

Brian Quinn, a member of the investigatory chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), reported on an eventful year for the body responsible for verifying the correct application of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations. During the 2013/14 season, the CFCB assessed 237 clubs competing in the UEFA club competitions.

The substantial task of assessing clubs against the break-even requirement for the first time saw the investigatory chamber of the CFCB request additional information from 76 clubs. Following numerous compliance audits, nine clubs were placed under investigation, with settlement agreements reached – aimed at bringing the clubs in line with financial fair play principles.

A lively panel debate brought together Javed Khan (English Premier League), Regina Coppinger (FAI), Jan Peter Dogge (Royal Netherlands Football Association, KNVB) and Werner Möglich (German Football Association, DFB). They were joined by Jonathan Roche, chairman of the Ireland's most successful club, Shamrock Rovers FC, to discuss the implementation of financial fair play, the possibility of break-even style regulations at domestic level, potential changes to the UEFA regulations in the future and the impact of the introduction of such criteria on clubs. The debate and comments from the floor showed that while certain changes may be required, widespread support remained for financial fair play, and the general consensus was that the regulations have had a significant positive overall impact on the industry.

Another spirited panel discussion centered on issues facing national associations during the club licensing core process. Cesare Bisoni, chairman of the first instance body of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Cristian Iliescu (Romanian Football Federation, FRF), the licensing manager of the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) Nenad Santrač and Ivančica Sudac, vice-chairwoman of the UEFA Club Licensing Committee, joined Richard Fahey, director of club licensing at the FAI on the panel.

The vast experience and considerable expertise of the panelists provided an excellent platform for a stimulating debate on how domestic controls can be enhanced in order to address the problem of overdue payments for international transfers. Recent decisions from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the context of domestic club licensing cases were also debated. Both panelists and participants expressed support for the competence of national arbitration bodies in appeal of decisions rendered by national decision-making bodies in such cases.

A review of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations examined technical areas such as the club monitoring submissions. The continual evolution of the system was also highlighted through the results of a survey of national support liaison officer (SLO) coordinators, which demonstrated the positive impact on supporter relations since the SLO requirement was first introduced into club licensing.

The widespread success and acknowledgement of the benefits of club licensing was highlighted by an insight into how club licensing is now spreading across world football with the implementation of the system in Africa, Asia and North and Central America.

By virtue of memorandums of understandings which are in place with UEFA and FIFA's other confederations, more than ten years of expertise and knowledge gained since the system was introduced in Europe is being shared. Representatives from FIFA, AFC, CAF and CONCACAF were given the opportunity to interact and share best practices with UEFA's member associations, showing how the entire football family can benefit from the implementation of good governance and development tools such as club licensing and financial fair play.