So there you have it.
Sheffield United’s efforts to comply with the Football League’s Financial Fair Play and Salary Cost Management Protocol regulations have been a complete waste of time.
The announcement that AFC Bournemouth failed to meet their obligations in the Championship last term have not only revealed the supposed romanticism surrounding Eddie Howe’s side to be a total sham. (A fact long highlighted by many of us in the media but conveniently ignored by others due to its sober narrative. The second coming of Wimbledon they most definitely ain’t). But confirmation they could be fined as little as £1 because they are now under the jurisdiction of the Premier League is a slap in the face for teams like United and tomorrow’s opponents Peterborough who, for many seasons now, have played assiduously by the book.
Make no mistake, FFP and SCMP in particular have caused United plenty of headaches since being relegated from the second tie in 2011. Most notably when, having found themselves in League One, only a firesale of the entire squad would have brought them below the 65 per cent wages to turnover threshold. A compromise was brokered at the FL’s AGM and salary levels were reduced on a step by step basis. And, crucially, on time.
A lot of rubbish has been spoken about FFP after it was revealed Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, Bolton Wanderers and Fulham, all failed to comply following the most recent audit. Much of it, unfortunately, by folk who, paid to pontificate on drivetime radio and television magazine programmes, really should have a better grasp of their brief. Market tests, which designed to prevent wealthy benefactors from circumnavigating the rules by ‘negotiating’ inflated sponsorship agreement are rarely raised or discussed.
FFP might not be perfect. Yes, in its present form it could simply preserve the status quo. Some adjustments are required but the principles behind it are well-meaning if, like me, you believe clubs are more than just a business or rich man’s play thing. Nobody has their ashes scattered in the frozen food aisle of the local Tesco Express after all.
Bournemouth could be fined 100 per cent of any excess losses if they total more than £10m. But, as they prepare to face Leicester City at The Walkers Stadium, billionaire owner Maxim Demin is unlikely to shed too many tears either way. Forest and Wanderers are subject to transfer embargoes. Supposedly a less severe sanction because they did not gain promotion but, given the riches top-flight status brings, actually more tough.
It is a farcical situation with a simple solution. Punish those who break the rules with meaningful points deductions and ensure the system is governed by one ruling body. Not two.