Financial Fair Play Rules Will Be Anything But Fair – by Rob Atkinson


FFP – In aid of The Cartel

With the news that QPR are in line for a massive fine – reportedly a possible £62 million – for incurring heavy losses in their vain attempt to retain top-flight status, it’s time to pause, scratch our heads and reflect: just who ARE going to be the beneficiaries of the Financial Fair Play rules?

Firstly, what is “Fair Play”?  Doesn’t it imply a leveling of the playing field so that true competition might be a feature of our national game – instead of an all-powerful cartel at the top of the Premier League, carving up the goodies between them?  One of the worrying aspects of the Fair Play rules appears to be their scornful attitude to inward investment. Suddenly, this has become a grubby, slightly indecent concept, the clubs trying to invest their way towards parity with the Big Boys are looked upon as upstarts, unwelcome parvenus  The idea of slapping a massive fine on top of a big operating loss is likewise perplexing – somewhat akin to seeing a dangerous blaze which threatens loss of life and property, then trying to put it out by spraying petrol lavishly all over it.  We are in danger here of applying a cure that is worse than the disease.

As a Leeds fan, I suppose I should be leaning towards rules like this.  Leeds are a big club, and success would multiply their potential to succeed commercially by a factor of many. Presumably, this sort of self-generated wealth would meet with the approval of the minds behind Financial Fair Play – although, given the fact that it’s Leeds, we’re just as likely to get hit with a 15 point deduction.  But the whole thing stinks to me; I am cynical as to the thinking behind it – and even more so, I am cynical as to the interests of those who are behind the thinking.

Financial Fair Play appears to my non-financially-wired mind to want to put more power and financial muscle into the hands of those who already have the most power and financial muscle.  It will benefit, surely, those who have tapped successfully into vast overseas markets, those with massive supporter bases consisting of millions of people, most of whom will not necessarily have even visited the country wherein resides their team of choice.  The more tacky memorabilia and replica merchandise such a club can sell, to the biggest market possible, the more the new regime of Financial Fair Play will approve and enable that club.  Who on earth COULD they be thinking about here?

I’m even more worried, having heard about the bleak situation facing QPR, about the direction in which our game is heading.  It seems to be all about empowering the powerful, and rendering those who want to rise and compete incapable of doing just that. The legends that have been built up in the game over the past century or so are now in a position to benefit enormously from rules that reflect today’s “Devil take the hindmost” philosophy.  That might thrill the capitalist souls of many, but it doesn’t do much for the guy who likes the idea that, every now and again, some hitherto unregarded club will ascend through the levels and leave the Goliaths with a bloody nose. That sort of scenario, to me, is what sport is all about – and if you legislate against clubs trying to better themselves in what is increasingly a money-dominated game, then you’re cutting off a hell of a lot of the appeal of the game.

Or am I just being hopelessly naive?

9 responses to “Financial Fair Play Rules Will Be Anything But Fair – by Rob Atkinson

  1. You are very right ,this rule was authored by David Gill the ex Manchester United CEO and current VP at the FA .
    All it does is protect the status quo at the expense of smaller clubs ,it was drafted to make sure no more Man City’s pop up in the near future .


  2. it might be unfair but it might give us the advantage. i truly hate what top football has become but… alas… still want leedz there (sigh).


  3. It’s nothing short of disgusting and a sign of these greed driven times. The premier league mirror this vile government by victimising the less well off in ensuring league clubs get a pittance for young players too. Hopefully all those out of town glory hunters will have their attention diverted elswhere when the scum win F,A this season.


  4. David Wilson

    The romance of a smaller club being able be amongst the big boys, albeit briefly, have long gone. The only way that would be possible, without financial fair play, is through massive investment, which would take away any romance of their success. Overall financial fair play should actually encourage clubs to be sustainable and not allow owners to risk their future. Something that we know quite a lot about.


  5. QPR will just find a “sponsor” who will cough up the required £ to make the debt disappear


  6. Counte Of Monte Fisto

    Hi Rob, normally I agree with you 100% but in this case I don’t & I do agree with the principle of FFP

    I think the sight of QPR lavishing millions not earned by them on barely adequate premier league cast offs to chance everything on one big push is sickening. Likewise the fact that Blackburn can pay Jordan Rhodes more per year than they earn through ticket receipts is insane.

    Fore the long term good of the game clubs should all earn what they spend. The FFP rules (as applied to the football league) do also make some provision for overspends, you can overspend by £3m a year plus your owner can inject upto £3m of their own money in as capital.

    That can happen for 3 years (I think my numbers are correct) so in theory you can invest £18m over your income without falling foul of the rules.

    Imagine what Brian could do with just a quarter of that?

    In terms of QPR & the penalties it simply won’t be an issue, they have risked everything on promotion & that they will get.

    Once out of our league the rules won’t apply to them, if by chance they don’t go up then they deserve everything that comes to them. The FFP rules have been known for some years & they knew that when they took the gamble

    In the long term it may work or may not (I can’t see it being applied in France to the same extent as we will be forced to here for example) but if it leads to a deflation of players wages & more home grown talent in England then I’m all for it. Personally I can only see the players, agents and lawyers continuing to get fat just as now.


    • I think I need to write a few more articles that people disagree with! Disagreement is good, it stimulates debate and draws in other opinions and new information so that everybody benefits and learns, not least me. Keep the disagreements coming!


  7. Your missing the other variable though gentleman, it stops pathetically small clubs storming past everyone else because they have a sugar daddy willing to spend millions. The likes of Blackburn springs to mind….
    It means small clubs have to get there the hard way, either through youth development or just skilful management…… For big clubs like Leeds it should even the playing field a bit. Providing its implemented fairly (which I doubt it will be) then I don’t see what’s wrong with the basic concept.

    To be fair to Manure, the scale of their income is a direct result of consistent success . Leeds are one of the few clubs who have the raw untapped potential to compete with them (assuming we could ever replicate a long term period of success and build up a global fan base).


  8. Pingback: Major Leeds Investment – But it May Be Jam Tomorrow for “Under-capitalised” United – by Rob Atkinson | Life, Leeds United, The Universe and Everything

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