BY STEVEN BELL
The summer of 2014 looks set to be an interesting one.
The World Cup in Brazil will showcase the talents of many and the usual bidding wars will break out; sides from all over Europe will fight for the players who shone the brightest in what is expected to be an exhilarating tournament.
But when UEFA begin their investigation into 76 clubs who are believed to be in breach of their Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, it could be more interesting than was first thought.
The regulations imposed allow clubs a loss of Â£37m between 2012 and 2013, but UEFA are very keen to further explore club finances which appear to come anxiously close to, and actually are, breaching regulations. As a result, a list of 76 clubs, almost one third of those eligible, will become public in April with non-obedient clubs likely to include Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. The assumption can be made that more high profile clubs could also come under detailed probing. Sanctions are clear and have been widely reported, and include salary caps, fines and competition bans.
This warning, perhaps promise, is somewhat of a surprise more than anything else. Of course UEFA have cited many a sanction since the early days of FFP; measures necessary to prevent “greed, reckless spending and financial insanity,â€ according to officials. But the scrutiny these guidelines have been exposed to has been vast.
Like me, many believe the rules are too vague in areas, and loopholes to be too apparent. A piece I produced referring to PSGâ€™s revenue injection from commercial sources (we all know which deal that refers to now) compliments this view. The â€œeven playing fieldâ€ UEFA strive for seems to be as far away as ever, but the formation of a list of non-compliant clubs is certainly a step forward in terms of giving these rules any respectability and authority.
The danger I referred to in previous pieces is still evident. UEFA can compile all the lists they desire but with no genuine action against sides, these rules simply are there to be avoided. In such a stage of infancy, a precedent is required or, as feared, UEFAâ€™s power and influence could also become questioned.
Alasdair Bell, UEFAâ€™s legal affairs director, is expecting a number of legal challenges if sanctions are imposed on clubs. Perhaps this is an admission of a weak policy, but nonetheless, we can expect every angle to be covered by clubsâ€™ legal division.
This summer will be a defining time in the short, controversial life of FFP. It will set the precedent going forward for the guidelines, sanctions and overall authority it will have on the game in Europe. UEFA appear to be sticking to the initial plan and strategy at this time with the list of 76, but it will take decisive action in the summer to convince a wide number of cynics to believe in the longevity and authority of FFP.