UEFA relaxes Financial Fair Play rules; moves to attract new investors in European clubs

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European football is lifting some of the restrictions on club spending in an attempt to make more teams competitive and ensure clubs are more attractive for new investors. European Football governing body UEFA on Monday agreed to relax some of its Financial Fair Play rules. This move is geared towards allowing clubs a period of accelerated spending on players if they present an affordable business model and show they are not ‘gambling on success.’

The loosening of the rules comes after UEFA found that collective losses by clubs decreased by 70% over the last three years, pointing to how European football grew despite the tough economic climate on the continent.

‘We are just evolving from a period of austerity to one where we can offer more opportunities for sustainable growth and development,’ UEFA president Michel Platini said.

FFP has been the flagship scheme of Platini’s presidency since being launched in 2009. However, the rules have been criticised for protecting commercially successful elite clubs from challenges by ambitious opponents, with the biggest sanctions in 2014 imposed on Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City and Qatar-funded Paris Saint-Germain.
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UEFA acknowledged that the regulations, which were designed to curb losses, put off some prospective buyers of clubs who believed their ability to spend on strengthening the squad would have been too heavily restricted.

‘This is what we were hearing: “Why should we invest if it’s forbidden. If I invest I am in breach (of FFP) … there are consequences. ‘We are sure that these new rules will encourage investors to invest in European football because European football is the best product in the world when it comes to club football,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told AP after the executive committee approved the rule changes at a meeting in Prague.

The softer regulations still won’t allow clubs to embark on reckless spending sprees, but they will be allowed a period of financial losses if they enter into a voluntary agreement that shows they will break even in the subsequent three-year period.

‘(We want) to make sure the competitive balance of Europe is improved even more so clubs can maybe retain some players, even invest in new players in order to get some results and generate more revenue. You can invest something and with investment you can generate more revenue so we bring more clubs to compete at the top table,’ Infantino said.

Infantino stressed that UEFA does not want club owners who ‘promised a lot of things and perhaps went bankrupt.’

Among other FFP changes:

·Spending on both youth and women’s football by clubs will not count toward losses.

·Sponsors or anyone else who contributes more than 30 per cent off a club’s revenue will be investigated to see if they are linked to the ownership.

·Clubs won’t be judged as harshly if they play in countries where TV and ticket revenue is significantly lower than the top leagues.

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