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SBD Global/August 14, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

ECA's Umberto Gandini Says European Football Has To Make Sure FFP Rules Not Detrimental

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Umberto Gandini says the ECA and UEFA work closely on further developing FFP.
The sometimes outrageous spending habits of European football clubs will come under even more scrutiny after UEFA sanctioned the first clubs under its financial fair play rules. There will also be the questions of how these sanctions will apply going into the new season, and what will happen to clubs that have not been monitored over the past two seasons because they did not take part in int’l competitions. For Umberto Gandini, the European Club Association’s 1st vice-chairman, it is all about making sure those rules will not hurt the game in the long run. “We should be very realistic and wise in looking at imposing rules that could in the end be detrimental to football,” he said. While Gandini, who is also the sports director of Serie A side AC Milan, is cautious about imposing sanctions frivolously, he said that introducing FFP was absolutely the right decision as European football has to rectify the way money is spent within the system. UEFA investigated a total of 76 clubs for breaching FFP rules and imposed sanctions on nine of them. The clubs, which included Man City and Paris St. Germain, along with Levski Sofia and three clubs each from Russia (Zenit, Anzhi, Rubin Kazan) and Turkey (Galatasaray, Bursaspor, Trabzonspor), were hit with fines, player and spending restrictions. The number of clubs and their distribution across Europe gives an idea of how widespread the issue of overspending is and how individualized UEFA’s punishments have to be. “If the European community is at two or three speeds, European football is probably operating at five or six different speeds between the bottom and the top clubs,” Gandini said. So while a €60M ($82M) fine is only a slap on the wrist for clubs like Man City or PSG, it would likely break the neck of Bulgarian side Levski Sofia, which had to pay €200,000 ($267,000) for its violation. Gandini said that the ECA and UEFA are fighting this battle together and will further develop FFP in the years to come.

THE HEAT IS ON: Not as close is the organization’s relationship with FIFA on the issue, and also when it comes to the concerns surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Gandini told SBD Global during his visit to Charlotte that the ECA has a clear position on Qatar. “We are open to a shift in date, in period actually, but it will be something that has to be agreed by the European football family and then FIFA,” he said. With Europe in principal agreeing to move the World Cup from summer to winter, there are still several obstacles that have to be overcome. The ECA's priority is preserving the interest of its players as well as Europe’s national and int’l competitions. Therefore, the ideal period of playing the World Cup is at some point between December and February, when European football is down to about one-third of its capacity. However, simply picking the period when it would best fit into the schedule does not cut it. “We have to avoid competition with the Winter Olympics, which have not been awarded yet,” he said. “I also cannot deny that for the American broadcasters, putting the World Cup against the Super Bowl is probably not the ideal solution.” All those factors will be taken into consideration by the stakeholders before making a decision. The first meeting of the committee tasked with the issue will be in September and run through December. “We will have a fair debate and a fair decision on this, so nobody can complain,” Gandini said. The ultimate decision, however, lies in the hands of the FIFA executive committee.
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