Butler: Financial Fair Play calming torrid transfer waters

Noel Butler,
1/11/2013 1:20:31 PM
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Apart from Demba Ba striking his option and Daniel Sturridge upping sticks, the January transfer window in the Barclays Premier League has been a snooze fest. Chestnuts not included.

We can't expect the irrational exuberance of 2011 when on the last day of January a total of £85m [$130m], the use of a private plane for a short hop down from Newcastle and all applicable taxes changed hands as the Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll show lit up the transfer market.

Things haven't quite been the same since. At least the batteries to help light up the scoring charts have been spared.

The biggest signing this transfer window may be the one that does not even involve the player needing to switch clubs.

If newspaper reports are correct than a brand new five-year, £25 million [$40 million] deal will be more than enough to keep Theo Walcott out of the greedy clutches of a number of clubs lining up to take the most centrally positioned winger in all of world soccer away from the Emirates.

Then what are we to make of the Frank Lampard situation?

Out of contract at season's end if we're to believe the smoke signals coming out of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, then me, you and a dog named Boo have a better chance of suiting up for the current European Champions next season.

Yes Lampard's the wrong side of 30. Yes he's slower and more discriminate with his trade mark box to box runs. But surely even with the devil in the detail when analyzing Chelsea's record this season - Lampard plays there's a 90 per cent chance they win.

Continue that level of performance through the course of a 38-match season and there can only be the one destination for the Barclays Premier League trophy.

However, without Lampard, Chelsea resemble the United Nations: dysfunctional. On a salary of £150,000 [$235,000] per week or $12 million for the season Lampard's departure is purely a forward thinking business decision.

The egg timer on throwing cash at any perceived talent deficiency is running out.

Football's equivalent of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is the new sheriff in town.

Financial Fair Play - the hobbyhorse of UEFA President Michel Platini - is the business model standard to which all clubs affiliated to the governing body's basket of 53 national associations must adhere.

Introduced on the platform of driving the billions of euros in red ink out of the game clubs can now only spend on transfer and wages what they earn each year.

UEFA have been monitoring the transfer and employee-payable ledgers of their clubs since the summer of 2011. The full impact of UEFA FFP will only come into full effect next season.

As agents and lawyers continue to take a grotesque amount of money out of football their podium is soon to be overrun by the certified accountants of London and Lisbon and all football outposts in between.

The cleverest and most creative need only apply.

The biggest cheer to come out of Stamford Bridge this season wasn't those associated with a Torres goal. It was from the boardroom when the club announced its very first profit under the House of Abramovich.

It was the most important £1 million ever banked in the club's 100 plus year history.

That announcement was made late last year. On closer inspection winning the UEFA Champions League was not a factor but it was instead due to the cancellation of shares worth in excess of $25 million in a joint venture with a Rupert Murdoch entity.

The rationale then is that the taxi for Lampard will subsidize the purchase of Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao in the summer. Ashley Cole's move to the city of lights would likely pay the Colombian's salary.

Manchester City, with the highest payroll in all of world sport currently cashing in at $320 million per annum, is the club with most to fear.

Yes they may be English champions but the financial benefits accrued have no chance of leaping into the same rarified air as last year's runners up or even, for that matter, at the home of their opponent Sunday.

Location, location, location: that particular driving force.

Speaking of real estate, welcome to the Etihad Campus. The grandest capital investment into infrastructure improvement across world football minus Rio's Estádio do Maracanã refit in time for 2014's World Cup just so happens to be funded by Etihad.

The UAE-based airline is controlled by that same vast wealth that is the custodian of Noel and Liam Gallagher's favourite football club. Not so much a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but still, welcome to the murky world of UEFA FFP.

Something, after all, has to fund Manchester City's transfer market dealings that tops out at £583m since 2006 according to Deloitte.

For those wondering – and surprisingly so when measuring their success over this interim period - it is Liverpool who come in at third place with a whopping figure of £341 million [$510 million].

Most thought they only bought the one Andy Carroll.

Arsenal, who must be salivating at the prospect of Sheik Mansour and Roman having their cheque books confiscated by Platini, use matchday market forces to dramatically increase revenues.

There is no pricier ticket in all of world football. A hamburger washed down with a halftime beer will set you back the equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment.

This combined with Wenger's tight control of the annual salary purse and ability to over manufacture the raw talent pool ensures the only thing red around the Emirates boardroom is Stan Kronke's club scarf.

As much as the action on the pitch has been most compelling this season - where quite literally a club who started the season winless in seven was able to claim the scalp of the runaway league leaders - the real story next season will not be measured by the historical metric known as a league table but by the financial ledger.

Chelsea or Manchester City could go the entire season unbeaten in claiming the title but unless they convince UEFA all was done without yet another disguised handout from the owner then that automatic Champions League position might well go to a Swansea or a Stoke.

Surely if that were to occur Tony Pullis would finally upgrade his baseball cap and trainer shoes ensemble for something inspired by one of Euroland's abundant haute-couture emporiums.


Fresh from opening up a pucker restaurant in Montreal world-renowned culinary icon Jamie Oliver has just signed a deal to provide the nose bag at the Etihad Stadium. In a joint venture with a company co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, Oliver will oversee all the food on offer at Manchester City's stadium. Eating a pie at football will not ever quite be the same again.


According to the world governing body, overall transfer dealings through 2012 fell by one per cent when compared to 2011. The official total of 11,555 transactions saw PSG top the big spenders league with €147 million [$185 million]. The Barclays Premier topped the league table with a total spend of €623 million [$775million]. Intriguingly the busiest trade route involved two old allies. No not the U.S. to England, but from Portugal to Brazil.


Amid increasing reports Fernando Torres wants back to Anfield, Moneyballs himself John Henry (a man who sprinkles sabermetrics on his morning muesli and who accrued his vast wealth in the hedge fund industry) certainly understands statistics more than he values club legends. Henry and his NESV partners should consider this statistic if he's thinking about getting back in transfer window bed with Roman. Since leaving Liverpool two years ago it has cost Chelsea close to £2 million or the equivalent of $3.2 million each time El Nino has been bothered to score a goal. His fellow countryman and BPL sensation Michu comes in at better value than fresh air... each goal this season only costing Swansea £125,000.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:

@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Catch Stoke City v Chelsea FC live from the Britanniaon the TSN and TEAM Radio Networks this Saturday, with coverage kicking off at 9:30am et/6:30am pt.

You can also catch Queens Park Rangers v Tottenham Hotspur Live on TSN - 10:00am et/7:00am pt.

Noel Butler

Noel Butler

Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on You can follow him on Twitter at and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.


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