UEFA backtrack on hard line stance.

A grim looking Michel Platini

Source

UEFA appear to backtrack on their expulsion threat.

The UEFA executive committee met on December 12th and very quietly and without fanfare introduced a very important amendment to its Financial Fair Play bible, the CFCB document (Procedural rules governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body). The results of that meeting have just been published in the updated 2014 CFCB document.

(http://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/Tech/uefaorg/General/01/85/85/25/1858525_DOWNLOAD.pdf).

Clubs such as PSG and Manchester City would have been looking nervously towards early April when vital decisions will have to be made regarding break-even sanctions and despite repeated assurances from Michel Platini that UEFA would ban clubs who flaunted the rules, the goal posts appear to have been moved. The rules have been amended and a new procedure has been put in place, which is effectively a “Get out of Jail free” card for clubs who fail to meet UEFA’s €45m acceptable loss.

Prior to the recent amendment any club who failed to break even would have been referred to the CFCB’s adjudicatory chamber for a sanctioning decision, but they now appear to have been given a softer option for cases: “Which justify the conclusion of an effective, equitable and dissuasive settlement.” Basically, this means that UEFA have introduced a procedure similar to the European Commission’s model for companies who have breached cartel competition rules. So why the volte face from UEFA?

When companies publicly admit to their transgressions in EU cartel cases and accept that they deserve to be punished it inevitably results in a far quicker administrative process. The transgressors agree to accept the punishment, rather than dragging it out in the courts, almost inevitably resulting in the company receiving a lesser sanction. You would have to be naïve to believe that much discussion and bargaining doesn’t go on behind closed doors before the company admits its guilt and the sanctions that are ultimately handed down will have already been broadly agreed and certain guarantees given to the transgressor.

As Daniel Geehy, the leading FFP expert states: "Many clubs will see this as a somewhat controversial regulatory inclusion. This is because, in my experience of settlement procedures from a competition law perspective, companies will only admit to a breach if they are rewarded for such an admission. As such, the CFCB will have to offer sanctions which make it attractive not to take the matter to the adjudicatory chamber or to CAS. As a result, sanctions are likely to be weaker to incentivise the club to settle."

Take Tottenham Hotspurs for instance; who have suffered so many near misses in recent years. They still feel aggrieved after finishing 4th in 2012 and being denied a place in the Champions league due to Chelsea winning the Trophy against Bayern. If Manchester City are found to have openly flouted the rules and do not even come close to complying are Spurs going to passively stand by if they finish in 5th and would have qualified if City were to be expelled?

With such a short timescale between the end of the season and the start of next season’s qualifying games UEFA’s nightmare scenario is a repeat of the Scion scenario of two years ago but on a much larger scale, with a cast of far more powerful and influential clubs. A major club appealing expulsion and dragging the appeals process all the way would leave next seasons Champions league campaign in chaos, if more than one club were to do so UEFA would have envisaged a doomsday scenario. This was always going to be a legal minefield and you can’t help but feel that UEFA have made their own position even weaker with the latest amendment to the CFCB document, but having had to choose between the lesser of two evils, they appear to have reneged on their former hard line promises of expulsions.



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