Published on November 29th, 20123
The Financial “Fair Play” Regulations – How UEFA is Playing Leviathan
By Tor G. Jakobsen
Popular Social Science has recently published two stories on the sociological and psychological aspects of association football. This is the world’s most popular sport, and is subject to a new set of directives from its governing body. The UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations were agreed on in 2009. The essence of these rules was that a football club’s finances should be based on income rather than investments.
The arguments used to support these new regulations are, for example, to prevent bankruptcy, to keep football a sport rather than a wheel of fortune, and to give clubs incentives to produce their own talents.
The book Leviathan was written by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in which he advocated rule by an absolute ruler (The Leviathan) who could dictate people and enforce his will as he pleased. Hobbes argued that one needed this absolute ruler to get rid of the state of nature, described as a “war of all against all”.
However, I disagree that the game of football could be described as finding itself in a “state of nature”.
There are major flaws with the new UEFA law. First, the law actually favors the rich well established clubs that participate in Champions League on a regular basis. For example, the four English clubs Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool had achieved a seemingly unbreakable top-4 position in the Premier League. Year after year these teams were the only ones that could qualify for the Champions League, thus creating a gap between them and the rest of the heat.
This position was maintained by the continuous flow of money from television rights, merchandise, Champions League, and sponsors. The same was true for many other leagues as well. The only possible way for other teams to compete was to get investors.
Second, what about the rights of the foreign investors? Why is it right for people to invest money in arms production or polluting factories, but not to invest in sports? Why should football have special rights, and not other more important parts of society?
I, for one, find these new regulations irresponsible. Thanks to foreign investors it is once again exciting to watch the Premier League. Let us hope this does not change due to UEFA’s wish to play Leviathan.
*Cover photo by Duncan Hull