UEFA probes 76 clubs over Financial Fair Play
NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA is investigating 76 Champions League and Europa League clubs for potentially breaking the Financial Fair Play rules designed to curb excessive spending.
The first sanctions against clubs will be announced in April, UEFA said Friday.
Clubs involved in more serious cases will also be identified then, with UEFA setting a June deadline to publish verdicts before the qualifying round draws for next season's competitions.
"UEFA in this respect is taking the lead in order to protect European football from greed, from reckless spending, from financial insanity," UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino said.
Clubs risk exclusion from future UEFA competitions for the most severe breaches of rules designed to encourage them to break even on football-related trading. Lesser sanctions include warnings, withholding prize money and restrictions on registering players for UEFA competitions.
UEFA didn't identify clubs under investigation, and officials declined to discuss details of ongoing cases.
Clubs expected to be scrutinized most closely include big-spending Champions League contenders Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, whose main sponsorship deals are linked to their owners from Qatar and Abu Dhabi, respectively.
UEFA expects several clubs to challenge their sanctions at the Court of Arbitration for Sport before the group stage draws in late August.
"It would be strange if they weren't (appealed)," said UEFA legal director Alasdair Bell, anticipating that "July and August could be a busy time. We are not afraid of them being contested."
UEFA revealed figures Friday after studying financial reports from 2012, the first of a two-year monitoring period to begin the Financial Fair Play regime.
UEFA says the 76 — almost one third of clubs which entered the Champions League and Europa League this season — had a total deficit of 600 million euros ($828 million) according to its break-even calculations.
The clubs have been asked to give updated financial statements to an independent UEFA-appointed panel monitoring their finances. The panel is chaired by Jean-Luc Dehaene, a former prime minister of Belgium.
The UEFA Club Financial Control Body includes a second, judging chamber to decide the most serious cases.
Clubs which are "directly affected," according to UEFA rules, by a rival club's verdict from the Dehaene panel can challenge it with the judging chamber.
Still, UEFA cautioned that some of the 76 clubs would likely show improved figures in the second monitoring year.
"Of course, not all (cases) are serious. Many will be dropped and some are minor cases," Infantino said.
UEFA has allowed clubs to report a deficit of 45 million euros ($62 million) against the complex break-even calculations for the initial two-year monitoring period. That loss can be covered by a one-time equity payment by club owners.
Of the 237 clubs whose 2012 accounts were assessed by UEFA this season, 57 combined to report a surplus of 737 million euros (about $1 billion) according to the break-even rules and were not asked for additional information.
A total of 104 clubs had income below a 5 million euros ($6.9 million) threshold set by UEFA and were exempted from assessment.
Offering Champions League runner-up Borussia Dortmund as a model club which has grown and succeeded playing by FFP rules, Infantino insisted the system didn't protect an elite group of clubs by dissuading investors from funding ambitious rivals.
"We think this is completely wrong," Infantino said. "We want to have a healthy club sector."