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The muddied wells of FFP justice

Could reaction to Uefa's financial fair play settlements have been any more polarised?

Manchester City fans railing against the injustice of it all. And not just them, Gary Neville tweeting that he couldn't understand why the club didn't simply sue since the obligation to make money doesn't exist in any other sport.

Elsewhere, folks "tut tut" away knowingly, noting that if FFP "had any teeth" then surely City, Paris Saint-Germain and the other seven clubs in breach would have been summarily thrown out of European competition.

The fact is, you can look at this on a granular level. Or you can go for the big picture. Do the former and you can reach any sort of conclusion.

With no sentencing guidelines, and no prior juris prudence, you're talking about punishments for offences that have never before been committed.

If nobody has ever stolen a car, what's appropriate? A suspended sentence? Or 20 years in prison? Who knows?

And if stealing cars has only recently become a crime and the defendant argues it's the only way he can get around, then it might further muddy the waters.

Now imagine that nobody has ever received those punishments. How do we know just how severe they actually are?

That's if you peer up close. You'll see plenty to convince you one way or another.But if you take a step back, you might reach a different conclusion. One that's a little more real politik. Uefa's stated objective with FFP was to reduce losses and calm wage and transfer inflation.

That much has happened. Some clubs curbed their spending way before this season, others used FFP as an excuse to not spend, but the bottom line is that, across the board, costs came down.

Those who did fall foul - PSG and City most notably - may not have been excluded, but they have had to submit to wage freezes and they've been forced to agree to tighter controls next year in exchange for the suspended portion of the sentence.

Ultimately, there is no owner who, faced between the choice of breaking even or losing money, will choose the latter. Even the men behind PSG and City.

Even for them, it was never a question of bankrolling losses ad infinitum, but rather how quickly they would get to turning their clubs into viable businesses and how much silverware they would pick up along the way.

That's why - despite the customary sabre-rattling and lawsuit-threatening -they both accepted their settlement offers. And why they'll both be closer to break-even next year than they were this year. Which is what Uefa wanted all along.

So much of the FFP talks has centred on how it protects the elite and how it maintains the status quo.

That may be true. But what it also does in the long-term is reduce costs which, in football, are almost entirely about players, whether in the form of wages or transfers.

And while that may be good for the owners and possibly for the fans, you wonder if sooner or later the players themselves are going to wake up and realise that they're the ones generating most of the wealth and yet their slice isn't growing as quickly as that of their employers.

Two weeks to go until the 32 World Cup coaches submit their definitive squads of 23 for Brazil 2014. Last week they were able to name a provisional squad of up to 30 players and it's been interesting to note how different managers took different approaches. Some, such as Spain's Vicente del Bosque or Italy's Cesare Prandelli, named a full 30-man squad, and made no distinctions between those whose place was guaranteed and those who were there to make up the numbers.

They said the final spots would be decided in training camp. Others, including England's Roy Hodgson, announced his 23, plus a stand-by list of seven. And then there was Brazil's Luiz Felipe Scolari. He dispensed with uncertainty altogether, naming his 23 without any alternates or stand-by players.

Different approaches aimed at achieving the same goal. But making it a competition for a spot in Brazil can undermine team cohesion. And sometimes it's best to have a hierarchy, like Hodgson. Then again, the Scolari approach leaves you open to sudden loss of form or, in the case of injuries, having to recall a player from his holidays. Scolari tends to be decisive in all walks of life, however. It's part of the "Felipao" schtick. There was no way he'd operate differently.

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