Uefa will closely monitor how much clubs are paid for friendly games on worldwide tours to ensure they are not used as a new way to exploit financial fair play rules.
The European governing body’s new financial regulations — replacing the previous FFP rules in place since 2011 to control spending of clubs competing in Uefa competitions — came into effect last week, introducing a raft of new measures.
Under regulations, to be overseen by Uefa’s club financial control body, all revenues reported in club accounts will now be analyzed under “fair value assessment” to ensure that any transactions, including sponsorship deals and transfers, are not artificially inflated to circumvent spending restrictions.
Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, have long been accused of inflating sponsorship deals. Following an investigation by Uefa the club was banned from the Champions League, although the decision was later overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
There are concerns that clubs could try to exploit loopholes in the new rules — now called the Financial Sustainability Regulations — by playing friendly games and tournaments for highly lucrative fees. Indeed, i was told that clubs are already consulting with financial experts and advisers on how to test Uefa’s latest financial rules.
It raised eyebrows when L’Equipe reported that Paris Saint-Germain had been paid £8.8m for a friendly against a Saudi All-Stars team, featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, in Riyadh last month. Newcastle United have started scheduling training camps and friendlies in Saudi Arabia since the club was bought by the country’s Public Investment Fund. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by either club.
Assessing what constitutes “fair value” for payment when it comes to off-season tours will place Uefa in a difficult position. Manchester United, for example, remains one of the world’s leading brands and can legitimately command huge fees for playing preseason tours and friendlies in other continents.
Uefa’s rules state that “an independent third-party assessor will perform a fair value assessment conform to standard market practices and assign a fair value to the transaction”. The club having their accounts queried could be given the option to appoint the third-party assessor, although it will have to be approved by Uefa.
But it will be simpler to compare sponsorship deals and transfer fees to ascertain fair market value than determining what is a fair amount for a team to receive for friendly matches and tours — and it is an area that could be tested.
One of the most significant changes to the financial regulations is the “cost control” measures that will mean all clubs must ensure expenditure on player and coach wages, transfers and agent fees does not exceed 70 per cent of club revenue from the 2025-26 season. .
Clubs are, however, being given three seasons to bring their current expenditure under control. Next season, club spending must be within 90 percent of revenues, the threshold lowering to 80 percent the following season and 70 percent thereafter.
Uefa’s club financial control body also has the power to alter and create rules if they discover an area considered problematic.
Todd Boehly has spent more than £500m since spearheading the consortium who purchased Chelsea last summer but, using a legitimate system known as amortisation, has signed players to lengthy contracts, lowering the amount shown on the club’s balance sheet each year.
Mykhailo Mudryk was signed for £88m, but the cost can be split over his eight-and-a-half-year contract, meaning only £10.35m shows up on their books each year when it is checked by financial inspectors.
As a result, Uefa is expected to tighten the rules from this summer so that clubs can only split the cost of a transfer over a maximum of five years, regardless of the contract length.