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UEFA prepares new rules to curb club spending

UEFA prepares new rules to curb club spending

The mantra has been repeated for more than a year: Something must be done to stop the spiraling spending by European football clubs.
It could finally happen Friday, when an influential UEFA panel meets to propose new rules for taming football's wild free market.
Calls for action were heard in earnest after Manchester United and Chelsea brought their combined 1 billion pounds-plus of debt to the all-English Champions League final in May 2008.
It reached a new level this year as Real Madrid and Manchester City _ fierce rivals of Champions League finalists Barcelona and Man United _ combined to lavish more than 300 million pounds ($487 million; ⁈llion) on new talent.
The world's most expensive player, the 80 million pound ($130 million; ⁈lion) Cristiano Ronaldo, arrived at Madrid along with Kaka, Karim Benzema and others. Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz top the bill at City.
Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who profited by selling Adebayor, called City's tactics "financial doping."
"The general sentiment is that, yes, we have to get better control of this. We share the philosophy," Umberto Gandini, a member of the Professional Football Strategy Council and a sporting director at AC Milan, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Salary caps, a luxury tax and maximum squad sizes have all been examined. A popular option is a "soft" salary cap _ limiting clubs' spending on transfers and wages to a percentage of football-related income, stemming the flow of bank loans and cash from billionaire benefactors.
All would be difficult to fit into a complex framework of national tax regimes and European Union labor and competition laws which bind a majority of UEFA's 53 football nations.
Yet a consensus is growing that something must be done, under UEFA president Michel Platini's banner of "financial fair play."
UEFA fears that without formal controls applied to clubs entering the Champions League, more could follow Leeds and Valencia _ opponents in the 2001 semifinals _ to the brink of ruin for recklessly chasing success.
Platini has called high levels of club debt a form of "cheating" and Madrid's spending "excessive," and will lead Friday's meeting of the strategy council he created to widen debates and drive reform soon after taking office 2 1/2 years ago.
The 17-man panel also includes four members each from UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA), the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) and FIFPro, the international players' union. Four additional powerbrokers have observer status, including FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke and Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, the chief executive of the EPFL.
"What applies to families or companies must also apply to clubs," Medeiros told the AP. "You can only spend what you have, otherwise football's long-term interests might be at stake."
Madrid and Man City were able to spend freely with backing from Spanish banks and the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, respectively.
While some of the money received by selling clubs was circulated in buying players, Medeiros believes the inflationary rise in wages and transfer fees is "a trend which must be tackled."
Gandini said that Man United and Milan, which sold Ronaldo and Kaka despite ranking second and eighth in a table of global club revenues _ showed responsibility by keeping most of their money rather than overpaying for replacements.
He also dismissed Platini's many critics in England who believe the former France and Juventus player has an agenda motivated by envy of the Premier League's success.
"The focus was all about English clubs, the Premier League's dominance and the investments by the (Man United-owning) Glazers and (Chelsea owner Roman) Abramovich. Now the focus has moved to Spain," Gandini said.
Gandini pointed to an "unfair situation" in Spain, namely its preferential 24 percent tax rate for foreigners rather than Barcelona's supremacy on the field, and Madrid's credit line off it.
Named the Beckham Law, after one of the first players to benefit, it is a key factor in meeting the net annual salary demands of elite players who expect clubs to pay their tax bill.
"If you want to pay ⁈lion net, the cost (of signing a player) in Italy, Germany or England is pretty much doubled. In France, it is almost three times," Gandini said. "It has been exploited very well by the Spanish clubs."
The Spanish league and Premier League also have excellent television deals, but Medeiros said they should not be punished for being the richest of the EPFL's 28 members, covering 900 affiliated clubs.
"We don't follow a Marxist philosophy, nor do we advocate Robin Hood tactics," Medeiros said. "We believe in sharing best practice and exchanging information."
Stakeholders in Friday's meeting are cautious about revealing tactics, and plan for last-minute consultation in Monaco, where the Champions League draw is taking place.
Recent comments by Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister and owner of AC Milan, that a salary cap is imminent were tentatively pushed aside by ECA secretary general Michele Centenaro.
"It is not at the moment the core ambition in what has been worked on in the last month," Centenaro told the AP. "But it doesn't mean it might not be in the future."
Platini has asked his strategy council to agree on rules that can be put before the UEFA Executive Committee when it meets Sept. 14-15 in Nyon, Switzerland, and perhaps phased in over several Champions League seasons.
The goodwill exists, though the devilish detail may yet push back the deadline.
"We have to be careful sending out messages that sound like we have the solution," Gandini said. "I don't think we are there yet."


Updated : 2021-03-01 03:20 GMT+08:00