Following today’s FA Cup semi-final draw, supporters of Hull and Sheffield United must feel there is every chance that they could secure a Europa League place next season. This could be achieved either by getting through to the final and beating Wigan, or simply by getting through to a final against Arsenal. Unlike the League Cup, the losing FA Cup Finalist will be rewarded with a Europa League place if the winners have already qualified for UEFA competition. Arsenal would need to finish as low down as 7th to drop out of a Europa League place. The rules can be found here.
A month or so ago, I briefly posted a piece where I raised the question about whether Hull would comply with the UEFA FFP rules and whether this would mean problems for the club. Hull have posted losses in each of the last two years and at the time, it appeared that there would be a problem because Hull’s owners had not injected equity (hard cash) to cover recent club debts. Based on 2011/12 and 2012/13, the owner would need to inject around £25m to comply with the requirements. However, since then we have had some clarification from UEFA.
Injection required if Hull’s compliance had been judged on two seasons.
The situation with Liverpool is relevant here. Liverpool’s recent poor financial results caused a brief flurry of media activity – their losses were so large that the question was raised over their compliance with the rules. UEFA confirmed that as Liverpool have not qualified for UEFA competition this season (2013/14), their accounts will not be assessed until next season – Liverpool like Hull will be assessed over three financial seasons (2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14). As UEFA have seemingly ruled-out any mid-season sporting sanctions, Hull are therefore free to compete in the Europa League should they beat Sheffield United (and potentially Wigan).
There are still some issues for Hull in that their 2013/14 accounts are probably likely to show only a modest profit and therefore some significant equity injection will probably be required. The owner will need to inject some cash to ensure club debts do now grow by more than permitted. He will have until 31 Dec 2014 to convert the debt into equity. If he does not do this, it is unclear what punishment UEFA will impose – they may withhold some of Hull’s prize money or alternatively impose a punishment for the 2015/16 season. However as Hull are by no means certain to qualify for UEFA competition in 2015/16, it seems more likely that some of the prize money may be withheld if the owner did not inject the equity. However, there is no reason to think that he won’t inject the cash.
In the mean-time, Hull fans can continue to dream of a European tour. If they were to secure qualification, the only thing that could possibly stop Hull’s participation next season would be an issue with their UEFA licence application such entering Administration (as happened to Portsmouth in 2010 and prevented them getting a UEFA slot despite being losing finalists to Chelsea), or problems with auditing the accounts. Neither of these two scenarios is even remotely likely. Although there is at least one (potentially two) games to win, Hull fans can at least start to think about digging out their passports
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