By Ade Ojeikere
Soccer is the other name for the beautiful game tossed around on lush green turfs, otherwise described as the king of sports. Football is played on the pitch, not inside courtrooms or tribunals. Verdicts are instantaneous based on rules which are interpreted by the referees relying on his assistants to arrive at decisions where he is in doubt. The referees’ decisions used to be final until the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system which was introduced to help match officials have a second look at scenes that the human eyes cannot capture due to the speed of the game. The essence of VAR is to reduce controversies on the pitch. This isn’t to say the decisions on the game cannot be decided in courts, although FIFA frowns at such acts, preferring the aggrieved exploits the inbuilt mechanism for such issues to seek redress.
Much as FIFA’s frowns at taking its matters to court, the body also allows those who exploited available means of seeking redress unsuccessfully, to go the whole hog for judgment, if that is what they need to get justice, which is what Manchester City did by relying on the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to save its existence which was threatened by the case brought before CAS in Lausanne Switzerland.
While the world waited with bathed breathe for CAS’s judgment, the Barclays premier League’s closing stages threw up several interesting permutations, mostly hinged on Citizens losing their case. Had Manchester City lost, the league would have ended this week, with as many as five teams sure of European qualification tickets. In fact, Liverpool, runners up last season were already thinking of the 20th title with a few projections that would have throw up board room winners, which has tainted the competition’s winners’ roaster.
CAS’s decision raised the stakes at the Barclays English Premier League platform with either Manchester United or Chelsea playing in Europa next season, except Leicester falters on the final day fixture to visiting Manchester United. This fixture would be the most entertaining with the two sides eyeing the UEFA Champions League slot. Liverpool and Manchester City are the sure best for UEFA Champions League slot in England. Yes, the excitement is back in England with matches deciding who gets what.
The law is an ass, lawyers say but CAS’ decision, forget that Manchester City was fined heavily, underscores the reason the rules governing that game should be interpreted to the letter. True, the Citizens erred in some aspects of what the English side’s lawyers came to defend. But the bigger picture is the time frame which UEFA breached as their failure to beat the deadline negated attempts to banish Manchester City.
Man City were found to have ‘disregarded principals and obstructed investigations’ at the end of their grubby FFP fight – They have escaped a European ban… but this is no moral victory. Manchester City had their two-year Champions League ban lifted on Monday. But the CAS findings show this is far from a moral victory for those at City. City were livid at the charges – so why didn’t they cooperate with investigators? Another rhetoric to be discussed another day.
While the world waited for CAS’ decision, pundits were worried about what would become of the Citizens and their stars on the heels of Sane’s movement to Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga. There had been fears that stars such as Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva would seek an exit if the two-year ban was upheld. City has an armada of incredible players and an efficient manager in Guardiola, who made the game exciting to watch as they scored goals with aplomb weekly, making them easily one of the highest goal-scoring sides in Europe in the last three years. There are no dull moments watching City play, even when they are not playing well. City’s play is enchanting orchestra.
Indeed, Guardiola captured this fear succinctly in a post CAS verdict when he said: ‘’I am incredibly happy for them. They are the reason why we are in the Champions League next season because of what they have done on the pitch.
‘’Off the pitch, maybe, other clubs are better, but on the pitch we were quite good the last three or four years, and we will defend what we won on the pitch next season in Europe,’ Guardiola was quoted in Daily Mail, Wednesday.
Tottenham’s manager, Jose Mourinho, a major stakeholder in the European game by virtue of his achievements lend his voice on the CAS’ decision, raising certain controversial questions bordering on the logic of the judgment.
‘’In any case it’s a disgraceful decision,’’ Mourinho said in his Tuesday press conference when asked about CAS’s verdict.
‘’If Man City is not guilty of it, to be punished by some million is a disgrace. If you’re not guilty you’re not punished. In the other way, if you’re guilty you should be banned. So it’s also a disgraceful decision. In any case, it’s a disaster.
‘’If you’re not guilty, you don’t pay. I’m not saying Man City is guilty. I’m saying if you’re not guilty you don’t pay. You are not punished, even with a pound.
Mourinho was apparently miffed that City could be fined £9 million, arguably the highest sanction, if they were ‘not guilty’. The Special One went on to wonder how they got punished, if they were not guilty, arguing further that City’s ban from UEFA’s European competitions should be upheld. Vintage Mourinho, not minding to speak the truth no matter whose ox is gored.
One manager who broke his silence on the matter was Jurgen Klopp and pundits were surprised because he hardly joins issues with anyone, especially when it concerns his team. And so when Klopp told the international press that; ‘‘I really hope that FFP stays because it gives at least kind of borders where you can go to (and not) over it. I think that is good for football. If you start doing that nobody has to care anymore at all and the richest people or countries can do what they want in football then that could make the competition really difficult. I think that would lead automatically to a kind of world super league with like 10 clubs.
‘‘It depends then not on the name of the clubs but the people who own the clubs and then they can play against each other. I think it makes sense we have these kind of rules. But about the judgement from yesterday (Monday), I don’t know enough or didn’t understand it properly why this was the judgement. I don’t know.
‘‘I am from Germany and I am educated in a completely different system for the majority of my life. We have different club structures, a club structure and not an owner based system so as long as Germany stick to that system they will never have these kinds of problems. It was clear where you got your money from before the season, you get your licence. If you don’t get your licence, you cannot be part of the competition. It makes it slightly difficult.’’
Hmmmm! Klopp’s thoughts provoke the question about the essence of the FFP. So, what does FFP mean?
- What exactly is FFP?
It was introduced by UEFA to prevent clubs that qualify for its competitions from spending beyond their means and stamp out what their president Michael Platini called “financial doping” within football.
Platini believes the big spending of some clubs is ruining the game and feels that the level of debt carried by many is unsustainable.
- What must clubs do to comply with FFP?
UEFA made its first FFP ruling in April based on club accounts from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
Clubs can spend up to 5m euros (£3.9m) more than they earn per assessment period, although, under this monitoring period, total losses of 45m euros (£35m) were permitted as long as clubs had owners who could cover such amounts.
From now on, the assessment will be made over a rolling three-year period.
For 2014-15, losses will still be limited to 45m euros (£35m). For 2015-16, the monitoring period will again cover the previous three seasons, but the limit will drop to 30m euros (£25.5m). The pattern is repeated in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
In the following years the limit will be lower, with the exact amount still to be decided. Clubs are also obliged to meet all their transfer and employee payment commitments at all times.
- What is covered by FFP?
Clubs need to balance football-related expenditure – transfers and wages – with television and ticket income, plus revenues raised by their commercial departments. Money spent on stadiums, training facilities, youth development or community projects is exempt.
- 4. Who polices the regulations?
The Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) was set up by UEFA to oversee the application of the its Club Licensing System and Financial Fair Play Regulations.
- What are the possible sanctions for clubs in breach of FFP?
“The atomic bomb is a ban from European competition,” said Jean-Luc Dehaene, the first chairman and chief investigator of CFCB, back in 2011 (Dehaene died in May 2014).
The CFCB’s investigatory chamber can offer clubs settlement agreements, with potential punishments including warnings, fines, withholding prize money, transfer bans, points deductions, a ban on registration of new players, and a restriction on the number of players who can be registered for UEFA competitions.