EXCLUSIVE: The general secretary has defended the European governing body’s controversial FFP rules, suggesting inequality is inevitable at the top end of the game
By Tony Mahoney in Dubai
Gianni Infantino has hit back at critics who claim Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules are weighted too heavily in favour of Europe’s richest clubs.
Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have dominated the latter stages of the Champions League in recent seasons, leading rival clubs to suggest Europe’s elite competition is too predictable.
At the same time, Uefa introduced new rules designed to reduce the threat of bankruptcy among Champions League participants by forcing clubs to live within their means.
But critics, such as AC Milan sporting director Umberto Gandini, believe one consequence of the new laws is to reinforce the stranglehold of the top five or six clubs who benefit from the largest revenues – and by definition the biggest budgets to spend on players.
Defending FFP at the Dubai International Sport Conference, Uefa general secretary Infantino explained the governing body’s strategy.
He told Goal: “I reject the criticism because it is completely wrong.
“It is sufficient to look at the development of clubs in the last few years to see that it is wrong. The only thing that Financial Fair Play does today is change the mindset of the clubs.
“Don’t forget that we had €1.7 billion losses in total for the European clubs two years ago, today we are at €700 million. It’s quite a big improvement in two years.
“The basic rule of Financial Fair Play is that you cannot spend more than the revenues you generate. You don’t need to be Einstein to develop such a rule – it is simple common sense. It is what we all do at home with our families. What we have in the wallet, we can spend – and not more.”
He added: “If you look at the development of European clubs over the last few years, you can see clearly that some clubs, who have made certain types of investments, have been able to develop in quite a significant way.
“The accounts of Real Madrid and AC Milan, for example, were very similar five or six years ago. But today Real Madrid has three times higher revenue because of certain marketing activities.
“Another example is stadium revenues. In Italy, you have stadiums with 80,000 seats compared to England where you have some stadiums with 40,000 such as Chelsea. But Chelsea’s stadium revenues are four times higher than the Milan clubs.
“It is possible by investing and growing revenues for new clubs to be able to enter the competition. But what we want, in particular, is healthy clubs, healthy competition and healthy investments.
“Clubs should at least break even. This is the basis of what we want and we think the evidence of the last few years has shown this is possible.”
Infantino also argued that inequalities at the top end of the game are endemic and the role of FFP is not to stem the tide.
He said: “Inevitably you will have big clubs and small clubs. Look back historically, in the 1960s for example, the clubs with the biggest stadiums – because you only had gate receipts then – had the most revenues and generated the most money to invest in the best players.
“It is not the objective of Financial Fair Play to have everybody at the same level. It’s like with political systems where everyone is at the same level financially, they have been shown to not work.
“In the end, it’s about creating a healthy competition and if you can manage to increase your revenues you can compete.
“Borussia Dortmund is a good example. This club was basically bankrupt a few years ago and the year before last they were in the final of the Champions League. It shows that it is possible that by investing in youth and infrastructure you can generate more revenues and are able to compete.
“You should also not forget that the Champions League – in the last 22 years – has never seen the same winner twice in a row. It shows that in football it is not only money that matters, it’s [about] what happens on the pitch.”