Published on December 4th, 20120
Why We Need Fair Play – Open Letter to my Co-Editor
By Joachim Vogt Isaksen
Dear Tor Georg,
I read your earlier opinion with excitement. However, I disagree with you on some vital points and believe your arguments require a proper response.
First of all, I must point out that UEFA´s fair play rules have been subject to overwhelming support among the UEFA-member clubs. After all, the rules were settled by a referendum where all the clubs in the UEFA-organization had a say.
You argue in favor of deregulation, but let me illustrate with an example why the system without regulation is dysfunctional. Arsenals manager Arsene Wenger’s approach has been one of relatively low spending when it comes to buying players, keeping the expenditure relative to the income. His philosophy has been on the patient art of building successful teams over longer time periods.
However, his low expenditure has unfortunately been undermined by high spenders, like the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, and Sheikh Mansour of the Qatar royal family. Every time Arsenal creates a talent, the pattern is all too familiar; either Chelsea or Manchester City will sooner or later use their economic muscles to buy the player.
You argue that one must apply economic rules within football as well as in other areas of economic life. In theory I agree with you on this one, but the problem is that it suffers a lack of pragmatism. Football is indeed different from other areas of economic life since it is based on continuity and more importantly, the supporters identification with their clubs. Huge short time investment will, as in the case of Arsenal, upset this delicate balance that has been built up over decades.
Deregulation may inevitable lead to football clubs becoming playing tools for multimillionaires who do not really care about their teams, but rather use them as a way of boosting their egos. In the long term this is negative, both for clubs depending on their own generated income, as well as for clubs who make themselves dependent on the unlimited resources from people who care more about their egos than the team.
The financial fair play regulations are necessary to create an even playing ground for all teams. I believe it is for the common good to have rules, which prevent clubs with wealthy owners from gaining an unfair advantage over clubs who are run on a more sustainable business model. This will encourage lower levels of spending which will preserve the spirit of the game, and reward the cultivation of talents and economic responsibility.
*Cover photo by Ronnie Macdonald