This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

Changing the game on football's Financial Fair Play Rules
Charlie Delaney
26 January 2015

Changing the game on football's Financial Fair Play Rules

Recent press articles about the impact of UEFA's Financial Fair Play Rules (FFP Rules) remind us that we continue to await judgment on whether aspects of the FFP Rules are contrary to EU Competition Law.   

A case was brought against UEFA and the Belgian FA by Mr Daniel Striani, a player agent registered with the Belgian Football Association and working at SPRL MAD Management, in 2013 before the Brussels Court (R.G. 2013/11524/A). In documents filed as part of the challenge, Mr Striani claimed that the "break even" requirements in article 57 of the FFP Rules are a breach of EU laws as they result in 'restrictions of competition' in the following ways:

  • they restrict investments;
  • they fossilise the existing market structure (that is, the current top clubs are likely to maintain their leadership, and even to increase it);
  • they reduce the number of transfers, the value of the transfer and the number of players under contracts per club;
  • they deflate players’ salaries; and
  • they also deflate the revenues of players’ agents (depending on the level of transfer amounts and/or of players' salaries).

Mr Striani went on to claim that the “break even” rule also infringes the free movement of capital (as far as club owners are concerned), the free movement of workers (specifically by reference to the players) and also the free movement of services (in reference to the services of player agents).

UEFA maintain that the rules encourage clubs to "live within their own means" and that the FFP Rules are fully in line with EU law. However, there is a growing feeling within the football community – specifically from fans of clubs challenging to end the hegemony of large clubs in Europe's top leagues – that, contrary to their original advertised purpose, the FFP Rules materially reduce the chances of smaller clubs. 

Should the Belgian Court find in favour of Mr Striani, this could have as big an impact on the world of football as the Bosman ruling, likely leading to greater movements of players between clubs. In addition, agents such as Mr Striani may be able to claim damages for losses they have suffered arising from the operation of the unlawful elements of the FFP Rules.  The judgment of the Belgian Court is therefore keenly awaited by UEFA, agents and players alike.