Thursday, May 27, 2010

Drop the debt

Michel Platini has got his way. The madness that has cursed football is about to be, if not stopped, at least checked:
From 2012-13, just two years' time, clubs who wish to play in European competitions must not spend more than they earn. That, in a nutshell, is it.

The idea is to stop clubs spending on players' wages beyond their income to chase the dream of success – and not only here, where according to the most recent, 2008-09 accounts, 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs made substantial losses. In Spain, La Liga clubs have recently posted €3bn annual debts, and Italy's top clubs, one of which, Juventus, was graced by Platini himself in the 1980s, have long been addicted to financial fixes from owners.

From 2012-13 massive spending on players by owners, as at Chelsea, where Roman Abramovich has paid in £726m since 2003, or Manchester City, whose owner Sheikh Mansour, has spent £400m since 2008, will be prohibited. An individual club must pay their players and other costs out of the money they earn, from TV, sponsorships – and, here, the world's highest ticket prices – not from "benefactor" owners.

A positive step in the right direction.

But, I fear, not much more than that. It's unlikely that this is going to be used to punish the big clubs in Europe. They might rack up the most debt but they're also best equipped to cope with the payments.

Of course any regulations that would punish a Manchester United or a Real Madrid would not have got to this stage.

So a Pyrrhic victory for Platini at most.

And one that will probably end up costing smaller clubs. Say Kilmarnock have a run in the SPL or Scottish Cup that takes them into Europe. Are they going to be banned from playing - and earning some much needed money - because they don't break even?

The rich get richer, the poor get shafted. As in life, so in football.

More from The Guardian's David Conn here