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Daniel Striani is a Belgian football agent and he filed a complaint with the European Commission regarding the FFP ( the UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations), stating that the above mentioned law is anti competitive and has a negative impact on the ability to generate an income.
The issue that occurred had been object of a big debate within the sports environment. The FFP has brought different consequences among European football clubs: some of them have been able to operate normally and have expanded squads and wage bills, other clubs, however, have faced problems and insolvency, due to operations made above their means.
With the scope of putting a limit to the huge amount of debt within the European football, in September 2009 the UEFA’s Executive Committee approved the notion of financial fair play .
There were numerous objectives that the Executive Committee wanted to address, such as achieving a protection of the long term viability regarding European club football, introducing more discipline and rationality within club finances, decreasing pressure on salaries and transfer fees, encouraging clubs to compete within their means and long-term investments. This means that football clubs need to balance their books or break even and they cannot, as part of a multi-year assessment, spend more than their generated income.
Striani complained before the European Commission that the FFP had restricted his freedom to provide services in the Union because of the budgetary cap that has been imposed on football clubs. Striani stated that by preventing clubs from spending more than what they have earned in previous seasons, then they would not be able to invest in the player’s market, limiting the amount of transfers and decreasing profit possibilities for player’s agents.
Since the European Commission rejected Striani’s complaint, the agent filed a petition before the Tribunal of Brussels . On June 19th the Tribunal then referred three preliminary questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) aiming to assess whether the UEFA FFP complied with EU law. On July 16th, the ECJ issued an order declaring that the above mentioned reference for a preliminary ruling irreceivable.
The three questions faced three different issues. The first one regarded the break even requirement infringing articles 101 or 102 TFEU, the second one regarded the break even requirement violating the provisions on free movement of capitals services and persons and articles 15 and 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the third one regarded articles 65 and 66 of the FFP being discriminatory.
The case was under the attention of a lot of people within the sports environment, since almost all European football stakeholders are in some way affected by FFP, for instance regarding the obstacles of free movement rights, the probable violation of antitrust law and the respect of fundamental rights.
Because of the outcome, a lot of critics think that the Striani case represents a missed opportunity to address the problems that the FFP has brought to the European football clubs, especially regarding the fact that certain clubs can rely on hundreds of millions of income, while others can’t. This means that the FFP represents a discriminatory bugdet cap, bringing a highly possible fossilization in the rankings.
Therefore, we will have to wait to see if another opportunity arises for the ECJ to address these issues.
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