Uefa relaxes financial fair play curbs to draw fresh investment

UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino speaking at a press conference in Prague on June 30, 2015.
UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino speaking at a press conference in Prague on June 30, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

PRAGUE • Uefa has presented new financial fair play rules, easing restrictions on clubs, in a bid to tempt investors after a tough three-year campaign to cut sky-high debts in the European game.

With Gulf state-owned Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain still feeling the pain of sanctions ordered last year, European football's governing body's executive eased the rules at a meeting in Prague on Monday.

They will force clubs to give extra information on ownership but will also start new voluntary financial revival plans to allow clubs to avoid sanctions and to spend on players if they have a "plausible and conservative" business plan.

The new Uefa rules are clearly intended to attract investors.

Since the introduction of Financial Fair Play in 2011, clubs have basically been ordered to live within their means.

Uefa says that European clubs' overall debt has been cut from €1.7 billion in 2011 to €487 million (S$732 million) in 2014.

Uefa president Michel Platini insisted that the new fair play is "an expansion and a strengthening" of the rules.

"The overall objectives of financial fair play remain the same. We are just evolving from a period of austerity to one where we can offer more opportunities for sustainable growth and development," he said.

But Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino acknowledged that legal challenges were made against the rules and doubts raised by some clubs about the restrictions.

"This is what we were hearing: 'Why should we invest if it's forbidden. If I invest I am in breach (of fair play and) there are consequences,'" he said after the executive committee approved the rules.

"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."

City, owned by an Abu Dhabi state entity, and PSG, controlled by a Qatar government entity, both recorded losses of more than €100 million in some seasons, leading to questions about how debts are covered.

Uefa in particular said that a backdated €200 million sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Office was not market value and a secret subsidy.

In future, any sponsor that gives more than 30 per cent of a club's revenue will be considered a "related party" to the club.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Uefa relaxes financial fair play curbs to draw fresh investment'. Print Edition | Subscribe