THE introduction of financial fair play rules in European football has shone a light on weaknesses in the business dealings of some clubs and "inadequacies" in their financial reports, according to a study carried out at the University of Stirling.
Evidence gathered for the research suggested that the current financial statements produced by clubs are of little or no use, amounting to something of a box-ticking exercise which offered "little meaningful disclosure on key performance indicators like salary costs".
Overall, researchers recorded "considerable support" for Uefa's financial fair play (FFP) regulations, although a number of specific concerns about the rules were also highlighted. These included doubts over the capacity of Uefa to enforce the rules when dealing with the wealthiest clubs and the irony of using financial penalties for those clubs which break financial rules.
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The study was conducted for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (Icas) by sports finance expert Stephen Morrow, a senior lecturer on the subject at Stirling. The study also railed against the "seemingly paradoxical" background that Uefa introduced its financial fair play regulations, effective from this season, to encourage clubs to adopt a sustainable approach to their business activities.
It noted UEFA's willingness to enforce their rules - Manchester City were among the first to fall foul of the new regulations - but questioned the logic of imposing financial penalties on clubs who break rules which are supposed to improve club financial management. The potential for "double jeopardy", where a club which has been fined once might find it harder to break-even again and thus risk further sanctions, was also discussed.
"Evidence suggests that financial reporting in clubs is compliance driven," added Morrow. "It provides some limited assurance to users like governing bodies/leagues, but offers little meaningful disclosure on key performance indicators."