IT seems a week never passes by in football these days without those dreaded three words – Financial Fair Play – cropping up.
For many fans it is about as interesting as watching the grass grow at the Reebok but the implications for every club need to be taken seriously.
We have heard on many occasions this season how Wanderers’ boss Dougie Freedman plans to build his squad under the new restrictions and hope clubs who flout them will be punished.
Well, UEFA this week took its first steps to doing just that with sanctions against big-spending duo Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain.
By supposedly spending beyond their means, the pair have been fined in the region of £50million and restrictions on their Champions League squads for next.
But is it fair? City’s bosses clearly do not think so and are planning to challenge their punishment if no agreement is reached by today.
Personally, I am ambivalent to it all. Rich owners of football clubs is not a new thing, albeit it is now on another level entirely with Middle Eastern royal families bankrolling clubs like City and PSG. It used to be local businessmen made good, like Jack Walker at Blackburn in the 1990s.
The fact is, who are UEFA to say who should and should not buy football clubs? And why are they so bothered about dishing out big fines when they are so cowardly in punishing clubs whose fans display racism at games. It just does not tally that Spanish side Villarreal get a paltry £10,000 fine after a fan threw a banana at Barcelona’s Dani Alves, yet UEFA throw the book at big-spenders.
If the owners of those clubs want to chuck money at it then that is their prerogative. Teams like AC Milan and Real Madrid have been doing it for years.
There are many fans who take issue with buying success but deep down wouldn’t most wish for an mega-rich oligarch to pump money into their club?
It can backfire – just ask any Notts County fan. But having the financial firepower you have previously lacked can transform a club as Chelsea and City have experienced in modern times.
Unlimited money helps, however it does not guarantee success. Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, they have become one of Europe’s top clubs. But in the 11 years since his arrival at Stamford Bridge, the team has won three Premier League titles to Manchester United’s five, they are level on one Champions League title each and United added a World Club Cup in 2008. Hardly the domination you would expect to come from a bottomless pit of cash.
Of course, United have never been short of cash either, though their American owners actually take millions out to repay debt each season rather than putting it in.
Ultimately, I say let these sides get on with their financial tug-of-war. They may win more but they will move further and further away from the soul and tradition their clubs were built on.