by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 30th 2014)
The Rules of the Game
Financial Fair Play (FFP) kicked in this season. Clubs had been given time to adjust to the new regime, but mega-rich clubs Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) still fell foul of the rules. Rather than face serious consequences for these transgressions a derisory fine that makes no difference to their owners was imposed. Meanwhile, smaller clubs were driven to rack and ruin – bankruptcy even.
Yet even bigger clubs used to competing at the top table of European have faced serious difficulties. Barçelona and Real Madrid are among the big spenders, but both faced ruin previously. Like banks later, they were baled out. Both sold their training grounds to the local or national governments controversially long before UEFA imposed FFP. But how fair is FFP? Manchester City, Málaga and PSG got their spending in before the regulations bit, although Málagaʼs owner abandoned the project.
Manchester City and PSG realised that if they were ever to join the big guns, it had to be done before the regulations bit. But is FFP about fiscal responsibility, or preserving the status quo or perhaps even both. We investigate further, taking València as an example. There is no doubt that like other clubs los Ches spent heavily and in some cases irresponsibly, but their situation is different.
Valènciaʼs woes were not all self-inflicted. There were bad investments on players – all clubs do that. There were changes in direction as coaches wanted different players and changed the style of play. Some became surplus to requirements. The investment in them were lost. But the biggest drain was the attempt to build a new stadium.
Club President Juan Bautista Soler sold his shares to Vicente Soriano in 2008, but the financial environment had changed. Soler has not received all the money due to him and chose drastic methods to try to get his money (we will report on that soon). Soriano realised that he could not deliver as the bank that had loaned the club resources wanted its money back as the economic crisis hit.
Pressure to sell their best players grew. Attempts to sell the club came and went. The local government got involved, but did not follow the path that baled Real Madrid and Barçelona out many years previously. Forced to sell their best players, los Ches had little option but to rely on youth and bargains. It resulted in the duopoly being unchallenged until the re-emergence of Atlético de Madrid.
Meanwhile, València had to sell to survive. In five years David Villa, Juan Mata, David Silva, Joaquín Sánchez, Raúl Albiol, Jordi Alba, Roberto Soldado and Tino Costa, among others had all been sold, but vast amounts had to service the debt. “We’re fighting and trying to end the agreement with the bank, but we think that more or less in two years we will finish the new stadium,” the clubʼs Director of Communications Damia Vidagany told us exclusively.
But Nuevo Mestalla is no nearer completion and talk of new investors has come and gone along with talent. “It is difficult to understand for the fans, because the club as I said, we are thinking our main work or main job is to be a very honest club with the economy,” Vidagany said. “If we have to sell players to pay the players to pay of the other class, we’re going to sell the players because we believe in the financial fair play. Then we are creating a start.”
The days of buying top stars are gone. “It’s no secret we can’t buy stars, but we can create them as we show every summer, the biggest clubs want the best players of Valencia,” he said. “Even, this summer we reject a lot of offers for [Roberto] Soldado, for [Adil] Rami and also for Tino Costa. Maybe we are keeping a good base of players and we are not going to sell more than one or two important players every summer.” But that is exactly what los Ches were forced to do. The windfall of Champion’s League ended last season and even the door to Europa League football is only just ajar, most likely requiring that los Ches a 2-0 deficit to Sevilla on Thursday night and go on to win the competition in Turin on May 14th to secure European football next season. Yet despite the hardship, there are no recriminations from the club. They not only accept the new reality, but think that it is fair (see Fiscal Responsibility) to be published shortly. They also believe that they will win the Europa League.