Counting the Pennies in Sport: UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations Under the Competition Law Microscope

This article is part of a Chronicle. See more from this Chronicle

Brian Kennelly, Ravi Mehta, Jan 14, 2014

It has been almost forty years since the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Bill Nicholson, is said to have remarked “[e]verything has changed now. Money comes before football and money is the ruination.” The economic dimension of football has never been more significant. On the one hand, BT and Sky engage in a bidding war for Premiership broadcasting rights; on the other, many U.K. and European clubs slide into insolvency. It is well-established in EU competition law that “the practice of football is an economic activity” such that football clubs or national associations may be “undertakings.” Moreover, the finances of several leading clubs have been artificially inflated by the presence of wealthy owners who have injected large amounts of their own funds.

Amid these trends, the Union of European Football Associations (“UEFA”) has introduced regulations to ensure so-called “financial fair play.” As a restriction on the access to football competitions in Europe, objections have been made that the rules do not comply with EU competition law. In this article, we briefly set out the new regime and its enforcement to date before looking at the competition law complaints that have already been, or are likely to be, made against the regulations.