Commentating on a recent Premier League game Efan Ekoku offered the assertion that the new UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules were so complicated that they “couldn’t be explained.”
Now it could be argued that part of the job of being a pundit on television is to actually explain things to the viewers but what if Efan was right? Are the new rules so labyrinthine that no mortal (or certainly no non-accountant) could possibly comprehend them.
It is true that the initial document runs to many pages, but the language in there could in no way be described as overly technical, and the whole package can be summed up in the simple phrase “clubs need to ensure that they do not repeatedly spend more than their generated revenue”.
Now it has to be admitted that the actual accounting procedures of clubs will require close analysis as there are bound to be those that try to play the system, but the concept itself is actually remarkably easy to comprehend and, dare I say, explain.
It still seems to be the conventional wisdom however that the regulations will be too difficult to actually implement.
For instance, I’ve heard it asked that since sponsorship is one of the figures that counts towards income then what is to stop, for example, a Russian oil company sponsoring Chelsea for a stratospheric amount each season?
Well that kind of dodge has been provided for. The regulations are quite clear that any transactions of such a type must meet the “fair market value” which will be established by UEFA looking at similar deals and establishing what the going rate is, so trying to play the system in this way simply won’t fly.
Neither will trying to include non-football related income into the equation work and whilst it will certainly be a busy time for the UEFA accountants there is nothing in the new rules that defies logic or reason.
My own expectation is that there will undoubtedly be clubs that try to bend the rules, and there may even be a few legal cases to test their validity (or at least delay their implementation) but once a tipping point of clubs and owners come to the conclusion that these new rules not only increase their chances of competing with their rivals but also drive down their overall costs, the system will soon also be in place in the European leagues.
The undeniable truth is that if clubs have a desire to play in UEFA backed competitions in the coming years then they will need to take these regulations very seriously indeed.
It also wouldn’t be a bad idea for certain people in the media to spend a little time studying them as well, instead of giving the impression that they have no relevance to the fans at home and in the stands. After all we may all turn into bar room accountants in the coming years.
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