Arsenal’s comeback iminent IF the FFP regs are enforced

Arsenal fans haven’t had a lot to celebrate over the last few years. They haven’t won a trophy since 2005 and have become widely mocked as a ‘feeder club’ to the Manchester clubs.

However their lack of success has been due to their lack of muscle in the transfer market rather than the club or manager ‘running out of ideas’. On the contrary it is thanks to the genius of Arsene Wenger that Arsenal continue to find themselves in the big money Champions League places.

Since the 2009-10 season there are just 12 teams that have constantly retained their Premier League status. In that time, Arsenal have only been the 6th highest spenders. That only tells half the story as they have also sold a whopping £166m of players in that time. That leaves a profit of £45.38m – more than double any other club.

Despite raising more money from player sales than anybody else and only being the 6th highest spending club, Arsenal have stayed in the top four and continued to steadily pay off their stadium debt. The stadium is a valuable source of income and second only to Old Trafford in capacity.

Soon Arsenal should once again start to compete on a much stronger footing. UEFA’s Financial Fair play (FFP) regulations will clamp down on huge spending clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City.

Everybody will have to tighten their belt as UEFA’s FFP regulations state that clubs should only spend what they earn. Arsenal’s continuing participation in the Champions League and income from their huge stadium should see them among the strongest clubs in the country.

The FFP monitoring periods have already started with the first period (seasons 2011-12 and 2012-13) to be completed by the end of the season. At the end of the monitoring period clubs will be allowed to have made a loss of €45m.

This is only if the owner is prepared to pay the deficit out of his own pocket. If the owner is not prepared to put such equity into the club then the maximum permitted deficit is just €5m. The rules don’t include youth team development costs or long term debts such as stadium development costs. This means Arsenal would not be affected by the FFP regulations.

By the end of third monitoring period (seasons 2013-14 to 2015-16) Clubs need to have that maximum deficit down to €30m – that’s €10m per season. That wont be nearly enough for Chelsea and Man City to continue to distort the market.

Since summer 2011 (when the first monitoring period began), Man City have made a net spend of £78.7m on players, so in order to comply with the FFP rules, they will need be able to cover that (and all their other expenses) with their income. As the bill cannot be picked up by a rich benefactor, it has to come from their revenue sources. It means they will have to sell some players and watch their spending in future.

Likewise Man United, (£95m) Chelsea (£145m) Liverpool (£70m). It is likely that United’s income will cover the transfer net spending but most clubs will have to curb their lavish spending.

Punishments for clubs that fail to comply with the regulations include:

– A Warning/reprimand

– A Fine (a bit pointless)

– Points deduction (from CL or EL groups)

– Withholding of revenue from UEFA competition

– Ban from registering new players

– Restrict the number of players a club can register

– Disqualification from a current UEFA competition

– Exclusion from future UEFA competitions


If clubs do not comply they could be banned from European competitions, cash cows such as the Champions league. Without the Champions League, wealthy owners could get bored, so they will have to adhere to the regulations.

In the meantime, Arsenal aren’t in breach of the FFP regulations so they wont have to worry about balancing the books. Not only is the team a permanent fixture in the top four but their stadium debts are steadily being paid off.

The Emirates cost £390m to construct. By May 2011 the debt had been reduced to a very manageable £98m. Much of Arsenal’s huge income from player sales has gone towards paying the debt.

As Wenger has shown time and time again, no player is so much better than everybody else (well perhaps apart from the Messis and Ronaldos of this world) that they can be worth so much money.

Of course a world class player will be missed but his place won’t go unfilled. A great player might score 30 goals in a season while a very good one will score just 20. It is only a difference of 10 goals. If other positions could be strengthened then overall the team could improve (As they proved by winning more points and finishing higher in the table without Fabregas and Nasri than with them).

Rather than getting one over on Arsenal, City are actually paying for their stadium, an asset that will permanently strengthen the Gunners. Wenger is biding his time and allowing the Manchester clubs to strengthen his own by paying off the stadium. The stadium of course will last a lot longer than the career of any player and the revenue it brings in will be guaranteed.

Unless the bottom falls out of the football market of course. However, if that were to happen Arsenal would be among the strongest teams in the country. Clubs would be desperate to sell their stars to stay afloat and Arsenal would be best placed to take their pick of the talent thanks to their sound financial standing.

Either way it looks as though Arsenal are eventually going to win their game of cat and mouse with Man City and Chelsea. They will have to get in line with the FFP regulations and their spending allowance will fall below Arsenal’s.

With Wenger in charge of the club in a much stronger state, it is highly likely that the trophies would start flooding in again.