I'm not usually a big fan of Martin Samuel, as he tends to be a bit of a blow-hard that doesn't really make a ton of sense. One area in which I've always agreed with his general sentiment is in the idea that UEFA's financial fair play system is an absolutely awful plan, and one which will simply solidify the current elite at the top of the financial food chain while not addressing the lack of competitive balance domestically at all.
Samuel sat down with UEFA president Michel Platini earlier this week, and had a very long (and very interesting) talk with him about the financial fair play system. I'd highly recommend taking the time required to read the entire transcript, even if you aren't a particularly large fan of Samuel's work.
Twice during the course of the interview, Samuel brought up Chelsea or Roman Abramovich specifically. For those of you not willing to read the entire transcript, I've highlighted both below:
Samuel: When it started, I would imagine one of the people that you were looking to control would be Roman Abramovich [owner] at Chelsea, because of the idea he is financial doping. Roman Abramovich ended up on your side, on the same side as you. So if he is in favour of your regulations, is that not a clue that the regulations are actually protecting the elite, rather than solving the problem overall?
Platini: No, because I am not a big financial expert about the financial fair play. I have a mentality and morality. It is the first time that we have unanimity about creating financial fair play. Unanimity by the clubs, unanimity by the owners of the clubs, unanimity by the unions of the players, unanimity by the politicians, the parliaments, the European commission, unanimity by national associations, everybody wanted that I put regulation. I spoke with some people like Silvio Berlusconi [owner, AC Milan], like Massimo Moratti [owner, Inter Milan], that were putting €100 million in every year, they said, ‘Michel, put regulation because we can’t pay more, it is finished.’ OK, so this time we have unanimity. It was not easy to begin where we go. We ask the financial experts of Europe, we have a disciplinary matter, we are rehearsing and in four years we make a deal with all the clubs and it will take four years to do that. Now coming back to the question, I think that Abramovich is like Mr Moratti, is like Mr Berlusconi, he says, ‘OK stop. I don’t want to play this bad game with those other clubs paying more, more, more and lose a lot of money.’
Samuel: But if you end up on the same side as the very guy that you were looking to control, how can your original principle be the right one? There surely is another way to control it, is what I’m saying. That if you are trying to control Roman Abramovich and in the end Roman Abramovich is saying, ‘Yeah, this is a good idea, I like this,’ surely that means you are playing into his hands because he’s not only going to vote for something that’s going to benefit him?
Platini: My only idea, that all the people that are convinced of the financial fair play, is to put regulations that are in the football from long, long, long time and at the end you have a lot of clubs that are disappearing. But it is not an English or French matter –
Samuel:– I didn’t say it was English or French.
Platini: No, no. But we have many problems in history – because it’s another system of payment for players. It’s very different and we have to find regulation for the 53 national associations. But I think it is a very moral project and at the beginning of a moral project perhaps not everything is perfect but we will try to reach perfection as soon as possible.
Samuel also touched on the loan system later on in the interview, probably largely due to the fact that clubs like Chelsea are hoarding young talent while clubs like Watford are borrowing a push for promotion:
Samuel: AC Milan have got 32 players on loan at the moment. Chelsea have got 26 players on loan, Watford have 14 players – they have nine players just from Udinese. As President of UEFA, what can you do about that?
Platini: We can always open the floor with the statute committee, with the leagues, the players and the unions of players of clubs to discuss the number of players in the team, the number of loans that they can have. We can always open a discussion with that.
Samuel: But what are your feelings on the loan system?
Platini: I never think about that. But what can create a problem for me is that if you are a player in the same competition, that is a big problem of ethic. The rest, the loan of players in another competition. It is not a big problem. Could be a problem, we have to think about it. But if is in the same competition it could create me a problem that a team plays against you and you are the owner of this player. That is not right.We are speaking now to forbid the transfer of the player during the season and it’s not easy with the union of the player, it’s not easy with the clubs, it’s not easy. But actually in the same competition. It means that I don’t want that player for Arsenal to score a goal against Tottenham on the first day and then on the second day he scores for Tottenham against Arsenal. Is it is not ethic, it’s not good. I fight for that, but you know, for long, long, long time there was no rules in football –
Samuel: No, it was like the wild west.
Platini: And it was always stupid Platini who would come with the rules. It’s not just to put rules, it’s football logic rules, ethic rules. Because you know football brings a lot of money. And from the moment there is lot of money, there is lot of people, new people, they come to take the money. That is dangerous because these people they want to steal to make more money. They want to change everything to do everything for money. That is dangerous.
I'm not sure why Samuel believes the loan system is a big issue, and given the confused and gibberish-filled answer from Platini, he'd appear not to have put too much thought into the matter either.
As Platini often eluded to in the interview, FFP is still in the very early stages and would seem fairly likely to see some changes going forward. That's probably for the best, as everyone I've read seems to feel the legal challenge to the system has a fairly good chance of success. With Chelsea confirmed to be sniffing around players like Edinson Cavani, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on.