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Financial Fair Play: Equality for all? Or just warm and fuzzies for a few?

We continue to believe that to be successful …. Any proposals for Financial Regulation must include measures to restrict the owner funding of operational losse

The FA has just come out with their version of FFP which differs in a few points from the Europa version.

This immediately brings a question to mind:

Why have a British version of FFP and why not stay with the other version?


As reported by the Daily Mail in mid January a letter on Arsenal letterhead which was signed by representatives of Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, was sent to the FA. It basically told the FA that the proposal to be voted on was not far reaching enough and contained a request for the implementation of a very hard line FFP plan. An excerpt from the first paragraph of this letter stated:

 “we continue to believe that to be successful …. Any proposals for Financial Regulation must include measures to restrict the owner funding of operational losses.”

Take note that neither Chelsea nor Manchester City participated in this hard line proposal and three of the four clubs were American owned. Very interesting! A determined effort by the Yanks (colonial sons) and storied Brits to shut out the brash Arab and Russian money.

While the new FA proposals are not quite as stringent as requested in the letter it has enough teeth to make life very miserable for all Premier League clubs outside of what I affectionately term the ”Big Six” which comprises Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs. My rationale for grouping these clubs is because they are the only ones which have the financial resources to potentially contend for the Premier League title and consistently challenge for CL glory. The proposals were narrowly passed when Chelsea made a u-turn and Reading’s (American owned) abstention provided the 2/3 majority required.

In a nutshell, it will cap wage increases for clubs with wage bills exceeding £52m by £4m annually for the next 3 seasons. The caveat however is that the cap is only enforced on income coming from central EPL funds (Broadcasting money). Match day, advertising, sponsorship and merchandising revenues are exempt.  The only member of the “Big Six” adversely affected will be City as their wage bill far exceeds their income. How about Chelsea one might ask? Well, ask not, Chelsea showed a profit in their last financial report. Most of the smaller teams do not have a wage bill over £52m so remain unaffected, but ambitious teams like Swansea, Fulham and Aston Villa which have relatively low wage bills are shitting bricks and it reflected in their votes against the proposal. With a low wage bill and inability to increase revenues dramatically based on location, stadium size, etc. these clubs are destined for mediocrity. Surprisingly, QPR, Sunderland and Newcastle are not negatively affected as they currently have inflated wage bills and revenue producing stadia which will be sufficient for them to maintain or improve their status ever so slightly.

The second “nut” is:

“From the 2013/14 season Premier League clubs cannot make a loss in excess of £105m aggregated across seasons 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Any club that makes a loss up to that limit will be subject to a tighter regulatory regime that includes:

– Secure owner funding for three years ahead
– Increased future financial information over the next three seasons.”

Letter to Scudamore from AFC, LFC, THFC & MUFC

Letter to Scudamore from AFC, LFC, THFC & MUFC

This rule is clearly more lenient than the Europa FFP rules which uses £45m in losses over the next three years as their punitive criteria and I am not sure which of the rules will take precedence. Regardless, only QPR and City should be adversely affected and City certainly have the tools to make the necessary adjustments in the first place, and secondly, can clearly show 3 years worth of money to sustain the model, if need be. Like PSG, they can also find sponsorships from “friendly” corporations to boost their income. QPR on the other hand might be hard pressed to do so. Chelsea is laughing all the way to the bank as they found the loophole by converting Abramovich’s loans into equity and showing a profit for the first time during his reign.

Reading into this, any powerful multi-billionaire could easily purchase a club, use their own money to build a stadium with sufficient seating capacity to maximize match day revenues, build training and other related complexes, give the Club £200M in the disguise as share equity, extend and offer a share issue (Manchester United), get a friendly company (As PSG demonstrated) to give them a fantastic sponsorship deal and still spend £105M more than their earnings over 3 years. So, in truth and in fact, if you are a grossly indulgent multi-billionaire looking to purchase a football club as a toy, you probably could turn it into a profitable business over time if the location and existing infrastructure is tenable. London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Istanbul, Amsterdam, anyone? Sorry my millionaires of the past, millions just won’t do it any more.

Therein lies the rub, there are loopholes which the powerful and wealthy will be able to utilize. The storied 4 of Arsenal, Tottenham, Man United and Liverpool tries to oust the newcomers in Chelsea and City, but fail. They must now adapt to having 6 teams fighting for the Premier League title and CL glory rather than four.

Any Arsenal fan who believes FFP will benefit Arsenal the most because of our financial stability is living in a dream. It will benefit the Big 6 to the exclusion of all others and should only guarantee us in avoiding mid table mediocrity unless we are guided by the most bumbling and retarded of board members. Looking at Stan Kroenke’s modus operandi, he will never operate like a Sheik Mansour or Roman Abramovich, he will operate like a …. well …. Stan Kroenke. I can’t see him putting more money into the club to make it the “best” as long as it’s making money and providing considerable internet content for his sizeable sports network.

As Arsenal fans, we will still believe in our players, yet we will still boo them when we don’t see the effort, castigate the manger for his blatant lack of tactical nous and curse his stupid substitutions. We swear at that “goddamn Yank, Kroenke, whine at Mr. Gazidis for his obvious lack of passion and return to the arena week after week through thick and thin. Why? Because we are fans and we know nothing else.

Fact is, that barring a dramatic turnabout from the current hierarchy at Arsenal FC, or Usmanov taking over the club, we will continue to strive for our 4th place trophy. Unfortunately, we can only hope that Gazidis, Arsene, Stan and Peter  (GASP) will recognize the significance of our Club’s history and strive for excellence on the pitch rather than mediocrity and money.

FFP will guarantee a caucus of “Super Clubs’ in Europe which will be the progenitor of the “Super League”.

It will guarantee that no club like Swansea or Brighton will ever again have a chance of being a world force in football.

It will guarantee that no club with former glory like Leeds and Notts Forest will ever be able to attain those heights once again.

It will guarantee that supporters of non-super clubs will have to lower their expectations.

Yes, my friends, FFP will guarantee that fans will be treated as commodities rather than supporters.

It will guarantee that meaningful FAN participation in the running of a major club is a thing of the past.

Like it or not, it always has, and most likely, will always be the domain of the rich and powerful. In the days of yore, the serfs had to pay their taxes or be quartered, males were emasculated to serve as companions to the fair ladies of the Court and beautiful daughters of the peasants were deflowered by their masters. Nothing really has changed. At Arsenal, the Serf’s banners are taken away on match day, scraps are strewn to us during the transfer windows, we pay the highest ticket prices and are at the mercy of the gentry in terms of the quality of entertainment presented.

Who knows, at some point we may even be called the Islington Rams, or maybe the Arsenal Avalanche …. How about the North London Nuggets?  …….. Naw, I got it!  The GOONER RAPIDS.

Oh sh***e, what a nightmare.

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