The ongoing tribulations at Arsenal may seem amusing for those not directly associated with the club. That is the tribal nature of football in England these days. However, it masks a coming storm. A storm that will decide once and for all the future balance of top flight football in this country and across Europe.
Arsenal are being lambasted by Mr. Usmanov, a 30 percent shareholder that they are not financing the club properly. He means that they are not being competitive in the transfer market, moreover, they are consistently losing their best players to rivals with billionaire owners like Manchester City, or bankrolled clubs like Barcelona. Arsene Wenger is pilloried because he sticks to his philosophy of looking for underperforming players around Europe and integrating them into his team and then moulding them into world class footballers.
This philosophy has served him well for a number of years. However, he could never have envisaged a situation like we now have, whereby otherwise bankrupt clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City particularly, suddenly have billions at their disposal, albeit none of it earned by the clubs themselves, merely the accumulated wealth of their new owners. This situation is actually a microcosm of the problems that M. Platini foresaw and has brought in the Financial Fair Play rules to try and re-establish some financial balance.
We are now entering the second season of Financial Fair Play scrutinty, in other words, whereby a panel of UEFA representatives will be checking the balance sheets of the clubs under their control. They intend to have the three-year figures by the end of next season and will then have the necessary information to check which teams have successfully worked within the rules and those that havent. That will be the 2014-15 season.
Platini will then have to decide if he is going to implement his rules to the extent that clubs failing to comply will be penalized. UEFA has a range of penalties and Platini himself considers exclusion from European competiton will be the severest punishment. However, there is a groundswell feeling that a more appropriate punishment would be to apply a transfer ban to those clubs. If that were to be the case, it would be interesting to see the reaction from City and Chelsea.
Whilst it is prophesied by the media in the UK that the wealthy owners would resort to trying to overturn these punishments using armies of lawyers, it is interesting to note that it is not normal for Arabian monarchy to seek to break laws or incur legal problems. especially in a country like the UK where we still support the Arab regimes in these countries. However, the situation at Chelsea might be different, with their owner never shrinking away from exerting his financial muscle to warn off any possible malevolence.
The 2014-15 season will be the day of reckoning for either Platini or the billionare owners of football clubs that operate under UEFA. It remains to be seen who will win the day, but the future of football may rest on Platini keeping his nerve and reinstating some financial fairness back into what is after all supposed to be sport.