Football giants want to dominate, control, act free

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ANKARA

European football powerhouses do not want to see inferior clubs rise in federations where there is no place for emotions when financial realities are at play.

Football has evolved into a global industry and the game lost its own romantic flare as finances became more dominant.

“The biggest clubs in Europe can’t tolerate the rise of a mediocre club such as Italy’s Atalanta,” Turkish football pundit Mert Aydin told Anadolu Agency.

Atalanta is having a dreamlike season in Italy and Europe as the club from Bergamo managed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, challenging the well-known teams.

“But if Atalanta were a Swedish or Ukrainian club, they [football powerhouses]would look for an opportunity to crush them,” said Aydin.

Second-place Atalanta have 75 points in 36 games in Italy’s Serie A.

Aydin said winners want to win more because they are still thirsty for earnings and Champions League revenue is a “cookie” for the giants.

Investors from outside Europe

English club Manchester City and French team Paris Saint-Germain’s finances in recent years are worrying because non-European investors can pump money to take control of clubs as a project, he said.

Aydin said 10 years ago, Man City and PSG were mediocre clubs in Europe but have since become top class teams as Gulf investors came to the rescue.

Man City’s owner is from the United Arab Emirates as the City Football Group is funded by Emirati tycoons Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, often referred to as “Sheikh Mansour”, while entrepreneur Khaldoon Al Mubarak administers clubs in the UK, US, Australia, Uruguay, India, Spain, and Belgium.

But the holding’s flagship club is Man City. PSG have been managed by Qatar Sports Investments since 2011.

Similar to Man City, the Gulf takeover enlarged PSG financially as the French club had a lot of money to spend for star players to make them one of the most powerful teams in Europe.

As clubs such as Man City or PSG grew, however, Europe’s football governing body decided to apply its Financial Fair Play (FFP) rule.

UEFA monitors clubs financially to make sure they are not spending more money than they earn, a measure created to help teams avoid financial problems in the long-term.

The FFP criteria involves break-even targets, sporting measures, and financial contributions.

UEFA has a special independent financial body, which surveils clubs’ financial data, and whomever violates the FFP rule faces sanctions, including fines or a ban from competitions.

The governing body punished Man City for serious breaches to the FFP regulations in 2012-2016.

They also received a two-year ban on participating in UEFA competitions in February.

“UEFA notes that the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s [Club Financial Control Body] conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the 5 year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations,” it said.

“Manchester City did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions, but did fail to cooperate with the UEFA authorities,” UEFA said in the statement.

But UEFA confirmed July 13, Man City’s ban on participating in UEFA competitions was lifted and a fine was reduced from €30 million ($35 million) to €10 million ($11.6 million).

Reliability of European football’s governing body

Aydin said the CAS made a technical decision and that there is a timeout, but it is not guilty, adding that “something needs to be done about that negligence, or the authority of CAS may be damaged.”

“There are many issues to be discussed: one of them is the issue of sponsors. The owners of the team transfer money to the club through sponsors and the idea that sponsors suggested by UEFA give exorbitant prices,” Aydin said.

“If it were an Austrian, Hungarian or a Czech club, not an English club, would the same be applied?” he asked rhetorically, adding that the penalty of €30 million ($35 million) is not much for Man City owners.

And questioning the reliability of UEFA as an authority could have serious consequences for football.

“For a long time, the big clubs threaten UEFA with leaving the organization but it is not an easy thing to do because European football’s governing body has the right not to allow matches to be played,” he said.

Head of UEFA, surprise name

Aydin said most football fans did not know who Aleksander Ceferin was.

“So far, there have been two types of images of a UEFA president — a very important former footballer like Michel Platini or Lennart Johansson or someone who grew up from the bottom of UEFA — but Ceferin is a name that nobody knows,” he said. “If you have told someone five years ago that the UEFA or FIFA president would be the current ones, they would have asked who they were.”

But Aydin also said that it was known Ceferin was the head of the football federation of Slovenia in the past.

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