Chelsea, Barça, Monaco… Not all clubs are in the same boat –

Chelsea’s spending spree in this winter’s transfer window has raised questions about Financial Fair Play rules and their enforcement. Are all clubs treated the same in terms of regulations? Nothing is less sure…

The transfer of Argentine midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica to Chelsea for 121 million euros ends the XXL transfer window for the blues. The latter will have spent 350 million euros. If we calculate the expenses of the last summer, the bill rises above 610 million. according to RMC Sports, Chelsea may be concerned about Financial Fair Play if the London club fails to qualify for the Champions League next season. The residents of Stamford Bridge have been in the spotlight of UEFA since last September. Will they really be bothered?

Manchester City case law

When we think of Financial Fair Play (FPF) sanctions, we inevitably think of the Manchester City episode. In February 2020, “Citizens” were banned from the European Cup for two years and fined 30 million euros for violating financial fair play rules. It should be remembered that financial fair play prohibits a club participating in European cups from spending more than it earns and strictly regulates capital investments from owners. Despite allegations of overvaluation of Manchester City’s sponsorship, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned the sanction in July 2020 and the fine was reduced from €30 million to €10 million. It should serve as precedent law for any sanctioned club. However, other surprise sanctions were imposed.

New rules, new beginning?

Financial fair play continues, but some rules have changed in hopes of seeing it as a sign of a new beginning. Allowable losses will be doubled from 30 million euros to 60 million euros within 3 years and will have to be paid by the shareholder. This mode will favor clubs with wealthy owners such as Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Newcastle. Clubs, on the other hand, will have to cap their wages at 90% of their revenue in 2023-2024, then 80% from the 2025-2026 season and finally 70% until their current contracts expire. In addition, each club will see their debt taken into account more. Clubs will have to reduce it by 10% each season. Thus, clubs accustomed to heavy debts, such as Barcelona or Manchester United, are at risk of being penalized by this new rule. Thus, UEFA may take back the points or even reduce them to the Europa League in 2024 under the new formula of the Champions League. If the situation arises, will these clubs really be sanctioned if they appeal to CAS? After the Manchester City case law, this is a question we can legitimately ask ourselves.

The OM case raises questions about equal treatment between clubs

Olympique Marseille did not have the same luck as Manchester City under the old Financial Fair Play regime. When the Mancunian club was cleared, OM was heavily sanctioned by UEFA: 3 million euros + a limit of 23 players who could play in European cups until 2023. In September 2022, when the new rules are introduced, Marseille is still sanctioned in the same way. Like Monaco and Paris SG. Marseille and Monegasque were fined 300,000 euros, while Parisians had to pay 10 million euros. Thus, the capital club was sanctioned in 2022 without spending much money on the transfer market. But when Neymar landed at €222m, he wasn’t. OM and Monaco never spend money like that on transfers, they can’t afford it. Although they have a strict wage bill, they do not threaten the financial health of their respective institutions and, unlike Manchester City and Chelsea, they do not spend more than they earn. However, the sanctions come down pretty easily despite everything and come after French football has been hit hard economically by both the Covid crisis and the Mediapro crisis. Given this particular context, it would not be scandalous for UEFA to make more concessions against the three French clubs.

It should be noted that 7 more clubs (Paris SG, Monaco, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus Turin, AS Rome and Besiktas) were sanctioned by the club’s financial control body (ICFC). We will have to see in the future whether clubs like Chelsea or Manchester City, who have spent a lot of money in recent months, will be in the same boat.

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