Italian site http://tifosobilanciato.it has published an unusually candid interview with Umberto Gandini, AC Milan Organising Director and Vice President of the European Club Association.
The European Club Association (ECA) is the representative association for Europe’s top clubs and is headed by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, with Gandini as Vice President. The ECA works with UEFA whenever rule-changes are being proposed and also petitions UEFA for change. The Financial Fair Play rules were produced in consultation with ECA and were voted-in by the ECA members.
In the interview with Diego Tari, Gandini explained that the FFP rules stemmed directly from the 2008 Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea (two clubs that had exceptionally high debt levels). This is a distinctly 'off-message' admission by Gandini - English journalists have often suggested that the FFP rules were introduced specifically to prevent further English club success. Platini has been questioned on this repeatedly and has always maintained that the rules were introduced solely to tackle debt and were not anti-English. In an interview with the Telegraph last year, for example, Platini advised “The message I want to send is that this is not an English problem. This is not a question of wanting to kill the clubs in England or anywhere else, it is to help the clubs.”
Gandini's statement opens up this debate once again and somewhat undermines UEFA’s FFP positioning as a measure aimed purely at preventing Pan-European sustainability issues. It will not have escaped attention that Chelsea and City reined-in their spending to comply with FFP rules and had miserable Champions League campaigns (in a competition dominated by two Bundesliga clubs).
Gandini’s comments on Paris-Saint Germain are also of interest. Commenting on their attempts to justify their huge-backdated sponsorship from the Qatar Tourist Authority (a body connected to the club owner), Gandani explained “ To be honest … none of us envy PSG at the moment! To prove that a sponsorship of 150 euros million is for ‘fair value’ is complex and, as far as I'm concerned, difficult. “
Given Zenit and Anzhi continued high-spending, it is also interesting that Gandini questions the absence of account-auditing carried for clubs from the Russian Federation; “we have a part of the UEFA world that has stringent procedures and request a third party (audit firm) control, while another part of the same world can potentially draw up budgets and provide them to CFCB [UEFA’s financial control body] without these being subject to any external check.”
Gandini also raises the issue of membership subscriptions paid to top Spanish clubs. Perhaps worryingly for Barcelon and Real Madrid, the ECA Vice President wondered “Why, for example, can the 180,000 Barcelona shareholders annually fund their Club and Abramovich (to say a random name) cannot?”
Diego Tari’s Italian site http://tifosobilanciato.it - Twitter: @Tifbilanciato
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