The annual UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play workshop in Rome shed further light on developments in this crucial area aimed at safeguarding the game's financial well-being.
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A packed agenda unfolded as licensing managers, financial experts and members of licensing decision-making bodies from the 53 UEFA member associations assembled in Rome for the annual UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play workshop.
The two-and-a-half-day event took place between 3 and 5 October – and focused not only on developments within club licensing but also on the implementation of financial fair play.
Antonello Valentini, general manager of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), and Andrea Traverso, head of UEFA's club licensing and financial fair play unit, opened the event, and the first day concentrated on club licensing. National associations play an essential part in the project, since they are the licensors and manage the licensing process. The admission to UEFA club competitions is conditional upon the receipt of a licence. It is therefore the first step that clubs must fulfil before they become subject to the more stringent financial fair play requirements.
The 2012/13 licensing cycle saw 581 clubs undergo the licensing process in line with previous seasons – 84 clubs were refused licences, the lowest on record, out of which six sportingly qualified clubs were denied entry to the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League on either licensing or – for the first time – financial fair play grounds. First-hand accounts of case studies involving clubs from Scotland and the Republic of Ireland were then presented, and all licensing cases recently judged before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) were reviewed in detail, to allow other associations to learn from their experiences.
The attendees were then given a description of the enhancements contained within the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, 2012 edition. Various articles were fine-tuned with respect to club legal structures, reporting perimeters and insolvency matters, and new provisions were included to deal with third-party ownership and squad size limits.
To close the day, participants listened to a very interesting presentation by the FIGC, who added an Italian perspective through a review of the activities undertaken by the study and research division, which also publishes the ReportCalcio, an insightful account of the structural, sporting and financial profile of Italian football.
Day two centred on financial fair play, with informative sessions on the purpose of and the work performed by the Club Financial Control Body, led by senior judge José da Cunha Rodrigues and former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene. Focus was set on the "enhanced overdue payables" review activity that represents the implementation of the first stage of the financial fair play concept.
Vital to the successful implantation of financial fair play is the technological infrastructure which enables clubs to smoothly submit data to the licensors and UEFA. In this context, national associations will take a central role in coordinating and supervising that clubs stick to the financial fair play monitoring process. Detailed information on the latest version of the IT tool to the licensing managers, the processes and deadlines for each submission and the break-even compliance concept was presented and discussed in depth.
The final conference session featured a review of the new requirements contained within the Club Licensing Quality Standard, which ensures that certain minimum standards in the licensing process across all 53 associations are consistently implemented. At the close, licensing managers were allotted dedicated and individual bilateral discussions where they could put specific questions to the UEFA club licensing and financial fair play team. As is always the case, informal talks between members of the 53 domestic licensing departments were as important as the more formal sessions.
The event was concluded with a reminder about why 2013 is set to be a truly momentous year. In addition to the introduction of the last phase of the financial fair play regulations, with clubs participating in UEFA competitions assessed under the break-even requirements, the licensing cycle next spring will also mark the tenth year of club licensing, during which over 6,000 club assessments have been made.
Club licensing and financial fair play continue to evolve, and the licensing managers and decision-making bodies operating the system across Europe are vital to this impressive development. Club licensing and financial fair play requirements signify a holistic approach designed to encourage better financial management by clubs, and which works as a good governance model aimed at improving the financial sustainability of European club football.