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English Premier League

Financial Fair Play: The bane of modern football



Part One; The Problems

For a minute lets put aside our feelings about the ways in which the influx of money has the potential to ruin the game we love and take a look at how Financial Fair Play regulations introduced by UEFA could be the real killer to any clubs who are not part of European footballs high table.

The issue has been raised again recently with Vincent Kompany criticising the rules in a recent interview with the Manchester Evening News, ‘for me, it is protecting those few clubs who were already geared up to be successful.” He Said, ”It’s the clubs who were already able to generate the most revenue that wanted FFP the most. So I just look at it in terms of the established order protecting themselves.’’

I completely agree with him.

At this point I should make you aware that I am a Manchester City fan, and watched my team stumble its way from one crisis to the next with no financial stability in the 90’s and early 2000’s only to hit the ownership jackpot in September 2008. However my problem isn’t that my club is now restricted by FFP and are unable to use the seemingly never-ending financial power at our owner’s disposal.

I know how extravagant our spending has been at times, but since the takeover and subsequent investment I have witnessed matches, players and trophy presentations I never thought I would, and the thought of another set of supporters never having the opportunity to experience what we as a fan base have over the past few years doesn’t sit well with me.

That’s one my issues.

I feel sorry for fans of clubs outside the top six. Only consistent challengers such as Liverpool and Spurs have a chance of making the top four, as Liverpool did last year and should they miss out on Champions League revenue for a few years, they could fall a long way behind the income streams being generated by the current top four clubs.

Is it any wonder why big clubs, such as Aston Villa are struggling to find investment? Why would a potential owner, who is not a fan, want to buy a football club if the potential to challenge for trophies and ultimately make more money has been withdrawn? UEFA has ensured that aside from the elite, every club now has an achievement ceiling.

Don’t think for a second I’m suggesting clubs spend with reckless abandonment in order to catch up, not that these current rules would allow it. I’ve watched with great annoyance as clubs like Portsmouth and Leeds United have paid heavy prices for the failures of their owners. Incidentally the year Leeds made the semi finals of the Champions League they could have won the competition and enjoyed all the financial spoils that it brings and still would have only just broken even, as was the mess they found themselves in.

Another issue is the way in which it has been set up and deployed.

Michel Platini admitted that several chairman and owners contacted him asking for protection from the nouveau riche clubs like PSG and City. Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Inter and AC Milan all asked for a change of regulations to ensure their standings in European football. Ironically the very rules that were put in place to reign in the spending of City and PSG will now protect them in the future. Vice versa established clubs such as Inter and AC Milan, who have fallen out of contention for European football over the past few years, will now have to play catch-up and risk the FFP sanctions.

FFP was in part set up by Jean-Luc Dehaene, a man who was head of a bank when it required a £5.18 Billion bailout, (an ironic joke by Platini perhaps?) and been put in place to improve the overall financial health of European football. Clubs now need to ensure that they comply with break-even requirements, which in principle means that they can only spend what they earn.

No problems there, football has been living dangerously for quite some time, with a reported 20% of clubs participating in European competition in serious financial difficulty.

However, Real Madrid and Manchester United currently occupy first and second place on Deloitte’s money list in terms of revenue. They are also heavily in debt, with Real Madrid’s bank balance reportedly hovering around £500 million in the red. Yet this is deemed acceptable by UEFA.

Can anyone explain to me how Manchester City’s financial model is less stable than that?

Back to my original point. By putting such restrictions in place, it ensures that those clubs with the biggest turnovers will keep their place atop their respective leagues.

Lets take European footballs top five divisions for example. In England, Manchester City’s current form is poor, but they still sit four points clear of Liverpool and should they win the battle for the all-important Champions League spot, the four clubs with the biggest revenues will occupy the top four positions.

If Bayern Munich take advantage of the 10-point lead they currently enjoy at the top of the Bundesliga they will make it three titles in a row. It will also be their 11th title in the past 17 seasons. Bayern’s turnover is almost twice that of Borussia Dortmund, the country’s next biggest club.

Athletico Madrid have enjoyed success over the previous few years, winning La Liga and making it to the Champions League final. However they currently lie 9 points behind leaders Barcelona and 7 behind Real Madrid, whose turnover is over three times that of Athletico’s.

Juventus are easily the richest club in Italy and have won the previous three Serie A titles. They are currently 12 points clear at the top. In fact the only league of the five biggest that may not be won by one of the richest clubs could be France, where a rejuvenated Lyon are just a point behind leaders PSG.

I’m a football fan first and foremost and welcome competition. FFP has already started to form the establish elite. It is time these regulations were looked at with a fresh approach.

I will leave the final words of part one to Vincent Kompany; “Just because a club is part of the established order doesn’t mean they should be guaranteed success forever.

Manchester City fan and UWE mature student. Fortunate enough to have witnessed Georgi Kinkladze light up Maine Road and David Silva's magic at the Etihad.

Stoke City

It’s crunch time for Stoke City under Paul Lambert

The next two months are crucial for the future of Stoke City.

Martyn Cooke



Photo: Getty Images

There are only eight games left of the Premier League season and with Manchester City running away with the Premier League title the attention now turns to the race for survival.

Stoke City began the season celebrating their tenth consecutive year as a top-flight club and yet the campaign could ultimately culminate in relegation to the Sky Bet Championship.

The warning signs were there in the summer when star winger Marko Arnautovic forced through a transfer to West Ham United and claimed that the Potters ‘lacked ambition’, something that the club hierarchy strenuously denied before forcing Mark Hughes to be reliant on free transfers and loan signings.

The further departure of club stalwarts such as Jonathan Walters and Glen Whelan was also a loss in the dressing room and behind the scenes, if not necessarily on the pitch.

The campaign actually got off to a promising start as Stoke secured four points from their opening two home fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester United, but the wheels quickly began to fall off.

Hughes had opted to deploy a new look 3-4-3 formation and, despite some early success, it soon became apparent that the Potters did not have the personnel or quality to make the system work.

The sight of Mame Biram Diouf, a striker by trade, stranded as a wingback pretty much summarises the tactical naivety of Hughes and his unwillingness to revert to a back four, despite poor results, saw the club slip into the relegation zone.

Ultimately, it has been Stoke’s inability to defend that has underpinned their demise this season.

At one stage, the Potters had the unenviable record of possessing the worst defensive record of any club in the top flight of European football, whilst only West Ham United have conceded more goals or kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League this season.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The Manager

Mark Hughes was dismissed in late January after Stoke City had been knocked out of the FA Cup by fourth-tier Coventry City and were stranded in the Premier League relegation zone.

There is little doubt that the Potters were correct to part ways with the Welshman, although in hindsight the club hierarchy had remained too loyal for too long.

Stoke’s attempt to hire a successor was chaotic, disorganised and became something of a soap opera.

Gary Rowett was the first manager to publically turn down the job after being approached and was swiftly followed by Quique Sánchez Flores, who conducted a swift U-turn within twenty-four hours of reportedly agreeing to leave Espanyol, and Martin O’Neil.

Stoke supporters were eventually left with the uninspiring appointment of Paul Lambert who, quite clearly, was nobodies first choice for the role.

The former Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers boss has certainly had a positive impact since arriving in the final weeks of January and has undoubtedly made the team more organised and harder to beat.

However, Lambert has overseen just one win in seven fixtures, at a time when the club are desperate for points, despite having been handed a favourable run of fixtures that included Huddersfield Town, Watford, Brighton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Leicester City.

The 48-year-old will need to stimulate a dramatic improvement in results of The Potters are going to have any hope of avoiding the drop.

The Squad

On paper, the current Stoke City squad consists of a core contingent of proven international players that should have the quality and experience to pull away from the relegation zone.

Jack Butland, who is vying to be England’s first choice goalkeeper, Kurt Zouma, one of the most highly rated young defenders in Europe, Joe Allen, a central midfielder of undoubted quality, and Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri make up the spine of the starting eleven, whilst Moritz Bauer and Badou Ndiaye arrived in January to add further quality.

However, there is an obvious lack of creativity in the current squad and the responsibility for facilitating goal scoring opportunities rests solely on the shoulders of Shaqiri.

In addition to this, Stoke lack a proven goal scorer with Mame Biram Diouf (inconsistent), Peter Crouch (one dimensional) and Saido Berahino (who has yet to score in over two years) the only options at Paul Lambert’s disposal.

This imbalance in the squad has been reflected in recent results. Since Lambert’s arrival in late-January Stoke have lost just once in seven games, against the champions-elect Manchester City, and have kept three clean sheets in the process.

However, in the same period, they have only won once, in Lambert’s first match against Huddersfield Town, and have found the net just five times – three of which were provided by Shaqiri.

It is the lack of creativity and goals that is undermining any shoots of recovery at the Bet365 Stadium.

Remaining Fixtures

Everton (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham United (A), Burnley (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Swansea City (A).

Stoke City have a semi-difficult run of fixtures but there are certainly opportunities to accumulate points over the closing weeks of the season.

Home games against Everton, Crystal Palace and Swansea City are ‘must win’ based on the fact that the Potters have the worst away record in England, having won just once on their travels this campaign, but trips to Olympic Stadium and the Liberty Stadium could provide a chance to rectify that.

Fundamentally, if Stoke can get to the final two games of the season and still be in with a chance of securing safety then they will be relatively pleased. It could all come down to the last day of the season with a mouth-watering fixture against Swansea.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Will They Survive?

Although Paul Lambert has certainly had a positive impact since being appointed in late-January, making the team more organised and harder to beat, it is difficult to see where Stoke City will secure the three or four wins required to guarantee safety.

The Potters have won just six games all season and the lack of creativity throughout the side and the absence of a proven striker leaves you wondering where the goals are going to come from.

There is certainly still hope for Stoke supporters, but Lambert will need to facilitate a dramatic improvement in performances if he is to guide the club to safety.

It will be an achievement if he can get the Potters to the final two games of the season, against Crystal Palace and Swansea City, and still be in with a chance of surviving.

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English Premier League

Paul Dummett’s Wales snub will please Newcastle United fans

The Welshman turned down an international call-up this week.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Paul Dummett has been one of the standout players for Newcastle United this season and his performances haven’t passed Ryan Giggs by.

The new Wales National Team manager has admitted that he has spoken to the left-back with a view to a return to the squad. The Chronicle reported the following quotes:

“I had a conversation with Paul Dummett, because he hasn’t been in the last few squads, and he just felt that it wasn’t the right time to come back.

“He wanted to concentrate on his Newcastle career which I have to respect, and we move on.

“He (Dummett) said that he wanted to concentrate on Newcastle’s relegation fight so I have to respect that at the moment. In the future we will wait and see.”

That will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez, as Dummett has emerged as a key player for the team since his return from injury.

This season in the Premier League, the Magpies have conceded only 13 times in the 12 matches that the 26-year-old has started.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

That underlines how effective he has been and his importance to the team’s chances of staying in the top-flight.

Although he may not be the most exciting player to watch, Dummett is very good at carrying out a role for the team and it is no surprise that he has become one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.

The Spanish manager enjoys to coach players that listen and carry out his instructions to the letter and his left-back certainly fits under that description.

A quick look at the stats shows how rounded Dummett is as a defender.

He averages 2.83 ball recoveries, 0.78 blocks and 6.85 clearances per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, he is very good in the air as shown by his aerial duels win rate of 57.41%.

He was once a scapegoat for Newcastle supporters and the focus of anger when things weren’t going well. The reason for that was his lack of technical skill, which would make him stand out on the pitch.

However, that side of his game has developed and he is now serviceable in possession. Dummett isn’t going to be cutting sides open with his attacking threat down the left, but he understands his own limitations and that has seen him improve as a player.

The 26-year-old has been part of Wales squads in the past, but he has only played once for his country and his lack of game-time may be a reason why he stepped away from the international arena.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Last summer, Newcastle issued a statement to explain why Dummett withdrew from the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Serbia, which featured the following quote:

“After a gruelling campaign with the Magpies, in which he played through the pain barrier on several occasions, 25-year-old Dummett is keen to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family and friends in order to ensure he is at peak form and fitness for his hometown team’s return to the Premier League and what promises to be a big campaign for both him and the club.

“He has been supported in his decision by Newcastle boss Rafa Benítez. 

“However, Dummett – who has represented his country from youth level all the way to the senior team – has not closed the door on his international career and hopes to represent the Dragons again in the future.”

It is clear that Newcastle is the priority for Dummett, but it is interesting that he refused to close the door on Wales last summer.

A managerial change since then may lead to further opportunities for the left-back and it is easy to see why Giggs has already reached out to him.

The Newcastle full-back has developed into a Premier League calibre player under Benitez and he will offer an upgrade on the options currently in the Wales squad.

For him, as a player, it may be beneficial to play international football and gain experience at the highest level. Although he didn’t agree to come back at this time, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the fold in the near future. Both parties would benefit from that.

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Salif Sane is the centre-back Everton must sign in the summer

The Senegal defender has been in fine form for Hannover 96 this season.



Salif Sane may not be a player well known to many fans in England, but this season he has emerged as a superstar in German football.

The 27-year-old has been in incredible form for Hannover 96 this season. According to the stats aggregator, WhoScored, Sane is rated as the second-best player in the Bundesliga, with only Bayern Munich’s James Rodriguez ahead of him.

His form should surely have caught the eye of Everton.

The Toffees have had a torrid time defensively this season.

Ashley Williams has been in awful form and has lost the backing of fans with his recent red card versus Burnley.

Michael Keane has struggled to replicate his Burnley form at Goodison Park.

Phil Jagielka’s age is catching up with him whilst Mason Holgate has been erratic.

The less said about loan signing Eliaquim Mangala the better. With Ramiro Funes Mori sidelined for most of the campaign, Everton have leaked goals.

Sane could be the perfect plug.

The Senegal defender, who came through the ranks at Bordeaux and later Nancy, is exactly what Everton need.

Sane is a no-nonsense defender whose main aim is to keep out goals. Defending is his first priority.

One area of his game where he is imperious is in the air. Not many players beat the 6ft 5 ins powerhouse in an aerial battle.

This season has been a breakthrough campaign for Sane.

This summer he will be in the Senegal squad at the World Cup in Russia, with plenty expected of a side containing the likes of Sadio Mane and Keita Balde Diao.

Sane would join his international colleague Idrissa Gana Gueye at Everton and would arrive more than capable of finally steadying the ship in Everton’s woefully inept defensive unit.

If not Sane, then someone else, but it is fair to say not many players in Everton’s price-range would be able to have the impact the Senegal defender might if given the chance.

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