European Soccer Club Losses Narrow to $1.45 Billion, UEFA Says

Losses in European soccer’s top leagues fell 36 percent to 1.1 billion euros ($1.45 billion) in 2012, according to figures released by the sport’s regional governing body UEFA.

UEFA President Michel Platini and the organization’s general secretary Gianni Infantino attributed the change to the adoption of new cost-control regulations known as “financial fair play” that will from next season penalize teams that breach targets. Sanctions include expulsion from the lucrative Champions League, the continent’s elite club competition.

“ Clubs are clearly getting the message because something is happening,” Infantino told reporters today in Monte Carlo.

UEFA in two weeks will publish a financial study of more than 700 clubs playing in Europe’s top leagues. It will show for the first time since 2007, wage increases didn’t grow at a faster rate than revenue, Infantino said.

Controlling spiraling losses in European soccer has been one of Platini’s central aims in recent years. Boosted by investment from billionaire owners, teams such as English Premier League duo Manchester City and Chelsea, and most-recently Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain of France’s Ligue 1, have spent record amounts on salaries and transfers while making triple-digit losses in some years.

“Financial fair play is not just a whim of the president,” said Platini. “It is also the wish of the European football family and political bodies to come up with a regulation to counter this scourge.”

Legal Challenges

Platini conceded UEFA is likely to face legal challenges once it starts sanctioning teams for breaches of the financial fair play regulations.

“This will lead to discussions which will inevitably end up in court,” he said.

Though total losses have narrowed since 2011, when the collective deficit was 1.7 billion euros, some clubs continued spending lavishly during the offseason. Real Madrid is prepared to pay more than the record 80 million pounds ($124 million) it spent on Cristiano Ronaldo to sign Tottenham forward Gareth Bale, according to Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Platini said world governing body FIFA needs to look at how the transfer market operates, and “find something more healthy.”

“I think it’s an opportunity for a lot of people to make a lot of money,” he said. “Today a player is more a product than a footballer with a whole pile of people trying to get commissions.”

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