FFP – The Premier League’s latest PR problem?

When Formula 1 can lay claim to the biggest move of the January transfer window, it is hardly surprising questions are being raised about the cliff-edge fall in Premier League spending. Even Chelsea have discovered restraint.

The widespread view inside the industry is one of caution and nervousness after Everton and now Nottingham Forest have been handed charge sheets for overspending. Everton’s 10-point deduction, an amount that would have relegated them last season, is the most severe punishment in Premier League history.

New terms enter the football lexicon for a variety of reasons, but most fans are now acutely aware of how FFP is hindering their own club’s spending or ramping up its thirst for sponsorship deals and matchday revenue.

However, by enforcing rules drawn up and agreed by the clubs, the Premier League has landed in a public relations crisis.

Before a Parliamentary hearing, Richard Masters was firstly drawn into describing Forest and Everton as “small clubs,” before defending the “messy” way the charges have been handled.

To borrow a quote from our latest monthly Reputation Report; ‘Due to dropped balls in the Premier League’s stakeholder engagement strategy, most fans would disagree.’

It’s not clear when they will know their fate. Masters explained “It doesn’t really matter when it happens as long as it happens in the season, and it will happen in this season.”

The problem is all of this does matter.

It has now been five years since the Premier League began investigating Manchester City for 115 charges related to FFP, including several charges that date back as far as 2009, before Rico Lewis had started school.

There now is a growing sense of frustration among all fans that the “smaller clubs” are being punished, while the richer clubs lawyer up. There has also yet to be an update since Chelsea self-reported its own incomplete financial information from its most successful period in football.

Behind the scenes there is no doubt frustration. After all, it is a three-person independent panel which brings FFP charges, not the Premier League, and the Manchester City case is an entirely different size and complexity to the ones Everton and Forest are involved in which are recent and fall under new rules.

But it is down to the Premier League to communicate properly.

There is too much secrecy around the charges levelled against some of England’s biggest clubs, and it is taking too long, for what may be seismic decisions, to be reached. Fans are not even allowed to know when the date for the hearings is, let alone what to expect. How many clubs will face point penalties this season is of huge importance to fans.

On top of that. FFP has all but grinded Premier League spending to a halt, and we are miles away from a consistent process that feels fair, or one that is communicated effectively.
Spain’s FFP rules are not without fault, but they are at least forward looking. Forcing clubs to comply in advance of the season, not midway through it.

A review of the rules is one thing, handling these existing FFP cases is now arguably the single most important thing the Premier League can do to restore trust and fairness to the league.

A park the bus display in front of a group of MPs didn’t get the result the Premier League needed.

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