Earlier this month Galatasaray were handed a two-season ban from UEFA competitions after breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. In this instance, the Turkish giants broke the rules on the level of financial loses allowed and the ban also coincided with a substantial fine.
Dr Mathias Schubert of the Institut für Sportwissenschaft der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, and member of The Football Collective provides insight into his latest research exploring the backgrounds of UEFAs Financial Fair Play published in the European Journal for Sport and Society.
UEFA’s FFP regulations represent the most restrictive regulatory intervention the game on the continent has ever seen. At its very simplest, FFP states that clubs wishing to participate in European competitions are not allowed to spend more than they earn, thus aiming to redress the escalation of expenses and increasing loss-making during the last two decades.
The highly controversial policy was approved in 2009 and has in the following sparked a lively and continuous debate among sector professionals, media and academia due to its far-reaching implications for the European football landscape. Arguably, from a scholarly perspective the regime represents one of the most significant issues of our time within the broader field of sport management and governance.
While potential outcomes of the concept have been thoroughly assessed, there is scarcity of research on the genesis and backgrounds behind its implementation. The present paper fills this gap by analysing the discourse in the run up to the passage of FFP with the aim to explore the origin and genesis of FFP. In particular we answer the questions, which conditions in the football system were regarded as illegitimate by whom and how these were turned to a social problem and hence a matter to remedy for UEFA.
We argue that the rising indebtedness of clubs and their increasing reliance on benefactors were a necessary but not sufficient requirement. Further ingredients imperative for the successful policy development were claims-making activities by influential actors to secure support for their problem perception. Strong discourse coalitions were formed around powerful storylines, such as the narrative of making debts as “cheating” and “unfair” as well as the notion of traditional sporting values being undermined by financial forces. Framing the problems as such provided a strong ideological foundation for FFP and offered a convenient reasoning for crucial actors to strategically position themselves as moral authorities and to push through the favoured policy solution. In particular the currently suspended UEFA and FIFA presidents used these storylines to install themselves as the guardians of European football with the duty to protect it from a rampant commercialism.
The recent incidents regarding the irregular payment from the disgraced FIFA president to the Frenchman stress the need to study the cultures of politics and friendship at the apex of football’s hierarchy. This research therefore provides a valuable insight in the micro-processes in which football governing bodies interact with stakeholders and how cross-country coalitions are formed by common interests.

To read this article click here and to contact the author email: schubert.m@uni-mainz.de You will also find more about the author here on his University profile and his other research on Academiaedu or Researchgate.

 

To cite this article:

Schubert, M., Könecke, T. and Pitthan, H. (in press), “The guardians of European football – UEFA Financial Fair Play and the career of social problems”, European Journal for Sport and Society.

 

Links to other relevant research:

Schubert, M. (2014), “Potential agency problems in European club football? The case of UEFA Financial Fair Play”, Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 336–350. DOI: 10.1108/SBM-02-2014-0006 Available here.

Schubert, M. and Könecke, T. (2015), “‘Classical’ doping, financial doping and beyond: UEFA’s financial fair play as a policy of anti-doping”, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 63–86. DOI: 10.1080/19406940.2013.854824 Available here.