Buidling Dreams Together


Financial Fair Play: Is it bringing more harm than good to the Premier League?

One phrase has been on the lips of football fans this week, FFP. 

Similarly to the last international break, when the Premier League visited Everton with a then 10 point deduction, Richard Masters and co have been delivering unwelcome gifts to the doors of clubs in the East Midlands. 

Nottingham Forest have been plunged into the drop zone after they were handed a four-point deduction, while just down the road in Leicester charges have been laid at the door of a team who aren’t even in the Premier League and it could have huge implications on them next season, should they get promoted to the top flight. 

It’s not just at these clubs where FFP has been causing issues, remember the 115 charges at Man City.

While fair is in the description of the rules, it appears to continue being unjust towards teams who are essentially starting from scratch, whether that’s Forest or the likes of Newcastle, Aston Villa and Wolves, whose owners have big ambitions and may have to sell major assets to progress. 

There’s a lot to unpack so let’s get cracking.

The parachute payments conundrum for newly promoted sides

Nottingham Forest’s statement in response to their points deduction, blasted the Premier League and their Profit and Sustainability rules (FFP for the purpose of this article), but they also mentioned parachute payments in their statement, something that often results in the same teams being recycled in the Premier League’s roster of clubs.

For those who don’t know what they are, it’s a payment that a team gets when they are relegated from the Premier League. They last for three years and decrease in value year-on-year and they help mitigate the financial damage of relegation. 

If we turn the clock back to May 2022, Forest had just got promoted and had to rebuild their squad from scratch after several of their players were loanees and many others had left at the end of their contracts. They signed a whopping 22 players in the summer window, but that left them on the back foot with FFP as they didn’t have the luxury of parachute payments on the balance sheet given their long absence from the top flight. 

Forest pleaded for mitigation as they argued that they needed to spend money in order to be competitive, especially with an ever-widening gap in quality between the Premier League and the Championship, which has been demonstrated by the fact that the newly promoted sides were all in the bottom three prior to Forest’s deduction. 

Alongside this, the East Midlands club argued to the Premier League that the sale of Brennan Johnson to Tottenham would have brought them in line with FFP, however Forest were persecuted for waiting to get a higher price for their star man, who wasn’t sold until transfer deadline day, two months after the end of the accounting period that they’ve been punished for.

Halting the chasing pack

Rumours have been swirling recently about many Premier League sides having to sell their assets this summer.

After a monumentally quiet transfer window in January, it is clear that sides are being very cautious when it comes to FFP. 

Most notably those with ambitions of upsetting English Football’s applecart were frugal with their purse strings in January, including Champions League challengers Aston Villa and Saudi-owned Newcastle United. 

If there was no threat of potential FFP charges, Villa would have strengthened a squad that lacks depth as they were in a superb position at Christmas, but now they’re just three points above Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

Now we’re hearing rumours that Villa, who are almost guaranteed a spot in some form of European football, will have to consider selling the likes of Jacob Ramsay and Douglas Luiz. 

Then Newcastle, who have spent a large amount since their takeover but investment was needed as they were a ship sinking without trace, have been plagued with a large injury list throughout the season but were unable to spend in January due to FFP and are now languishing in mid-table. 

Pre-takeover squad members Jamaal Lascelles, Martin Dubravka, Sean Longstaff, Joe Willock, Jacob Murphy, Fabian Schar and Miguel Almiron still playing their part and it’s a stark reminder that if teams want to regularly finish in the top six, they’ll have to play the long game and rely on young blood coming through the academy. 

Everton, who like Forest have been docked points, showed some ambition once upon a time, but a mix of off-field naivety and an expensive stadium have hampered them and turned them from potential ‘Big Six’ upsetters to candidates for trips to Ashton Gate and the Stadium of Light this season. 

A notable point to make about the stadium is how happy the FA were to use it in their Euro 2028 bid and how Sir Jim Ratcliffe is pleading for public money to fund an Old Trafford redevelopment, also Evertonians will be keen to argue how Tottenham’s new stadium was not included in its annual accounts report for FFP

Meanwhile, Leicester City, who again like Everton made some poor off-field decisions, most notably with recruitment, have been charged and likely will face a deduction upon their Premier League return, which could just be months away.

They finished fifth in back-to-back seasons under Brendan Rodgers and of course had that remarkable title winning season in 2015/16, but ambition is now being seen as a crime by the Premier League. 

Wolves, who sold many assets in summer 2023 including Ruben Neves, Nathan Collins, Matheus Nunes and Conor Coady, are rumoured to be looking at cashing in on star winger Pedro Neto amid FFP uncertainty.

Does FFP protect the ‘big six’?

This is the big question and undeniably the answer is yes given that FFP works around losses and the ‘big six’ tend to have huge revenue from sponsorships, European participation and shirt sales, which enables them to spend large amounts every summer.

Smaller names, who are infrequent participants in Europe, don’t attract the big bucks for sponsorship deals and subsequently have to look at selling a top player to make sure they can add to their squad.

Therefore it is extremely difficult for other teams to break into the top six and this benefits the ‘big six’ as they will continue to sweep up Champions League revenue and the big name sponsors that come with the global exposure from tussling with European heavyweights, which allows them to continue strengthening without having to sell assets.

When you continuously hear speculation about Man United picking up Ivan Toney or Arsenal being interested in Alexander Isak, it makes fans of the ‘other 14’ think that these rules may mean that their sole purpose is to be a ‘big six’ feeder club in the grand scheme of things and that makes it difficult for these sides to compete with those at the top table, which makes the Premier League a continuous merry-go round with a bunch of clubs competing at the top but those in the chasing pack who have ambitions are being halted by these rules.

What will happen to Man City?

This is a huge question, as we simply don’t know yet.

Everton and Forest fans have been asking this on social media in the wake of their points deductions, but it’s going to take a while. 

Everton have only had two charges, while Forest have had one, but Man City have breached the rules 115 times. 

To try and prove a case for all 115 charges will take the Premier League quite some time, especially given that Forest’s single charge took two months to sort out. 

While those of us who are believers of sporting integrity would like to see a suitable resolution to City’s charges, it appears it could still take quite some time. 

Another one to watch out for is Chelsea, with their frankly ludicrous amounts of spending under Todd Boehly’s ownership, what will happen there this summer, will they have to sell some of their stars in order to balance the books?