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Soccer’s New Goal: Kick The Spending Habit

Soccer’s New Goal: Kick The Spending Habit

To end lavish spending, European soccer's governing body UEFA has devised new regulations to force clubs to pay out no more than they earn.

August 13, 2011 9:36 by

We need to be in the marketplace as much as possible,” he said in Asia in June.


Of course, the biggest single way for clubs to balance their books would be to cut player wages, which account for around two-thirds of clubs’ total spending across Europe’s biggest five leagues.

Barcelona has the biggest wage bill of all European clubs, spending 235 million euros in the 2009/10 season, according to a report by the University of Barcelona entitled “Spanish Football in the Throes of Crisis”. Thanks to its lucrative broadcasting deal, though, the share of its income that went on player wages was relatively low at 59 percent.

In contrast, clubs supported by benefactors sometimes end up paying more for players than total club turnover. Manchester City spent 107 percent of revenue on wages last season, Inter Milan 104 percent.

To encourage clubs to slow wage growth and start training more local talent instead of buying in expensive players, any spending on youth will also be exempt from the new rules.

Talk of a breakaway league, that would be formed by big clubs disgruntled with the way soccer is run, cropped up again last month. But Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis dismisses this. “I think there are major teams that wouldn’t be a part of that. There is so much sentiment in favour of these regulations, so I don’t see a credible threat there.”

Gazidis, who sits on the European Club Association (ECA) board, helped fine-tune the FFP proposals and acknowledges that any system which effectively restricts soccer’s free market will have flaws.

“It is not a perfect system — in fact it may be the worst possible system, except for all the others,” said Gazidis, who spent 14 years working for U.S. Major League Soccer before joining Arsenal in 2009.

UEFA’s Infantino is equally dismissive of a rival league, chuckling at the suggestion. “Break away to what?” he asked. “They have already the best competition. It’s called the Champions League.”

As the new rules bite, though, tensions between Europe’s governing body and the game’s biggest clubs could rise. Much will depend the rule-makers retaining credibility. “I think UEFA will lose face for generations if they don’t enforce these rules,” said Ernst & Young’s Patey.

Infantino said the issue is simple: at some point reality has to kick in.

“Football is somewhat irrational. Those who are involved in football in their ordinary businesses are very sound businessman. In football sometimes they seem to go mad. We need to bring a bit of rationality back.”

By Matt Scuffham, Rhys Jones and Neil Maidment

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