Tag Archives: UEFA

Are big clubs using MLS to get around FFP?

Originally posted on YOUAREMYARSENAL.

It may seem odd to report on Financial Fair Play on an Arsenal blog without a focus or direct link to the club. But news this past weekend caused me and others to take notice and well, on first blush it presents the possibility of a worrying trend to circumvent FFP.

Reports have come out this past weekend saying that Bayern Munich are looking to support an MLS side at some time in the near future. This follows the news that Manchester City have formed New York City Football Club, who will enter the MLS in 2015.

A lot of people, especially in the states, will be delighted with these two potential link ups, as it supposedly highlights the growing popularity of the MLS and the possibility that more link up’s with some of Europe’s elite clubs will occur. These link-ups will see the European sides hopefully help the MLS sides financially, assist in improving the coaching and development of youth players, and lead to potential loan deals of youngsters from Europe to America. All of this having the knock on effect of increasing the level of quality on show. Perhaps most importantly, it will also see an increase of European sides playing in America against their ‘partner club.’

Whilst on paper, this looks all well and good – Manchester City for example have invested $100m into the league to ‘buy’ into their MLS franchise – I see it as a worrying danger to the future of European football, as clubs can potentially use the MLS clubs to circumnavigate the Financial Fair Play rules.

They way I see it working is as follows: Manchester City (for example) want to buy a player, lets call him Lionel Messi. Now Manchester City’s owners have the money to buy Messi, however, a £100 million transfer fee will put them in breach of UEFA’s regulation’s. So rather than buy him themselves, they buy him through their MLS franchise, who then immediately loan him to the European side for the length of his contract.

Manchester City then get a player of real quality, but at no cost, allowing them to balance the books when it comes to FFP.

I’ve provided an extreme example. Yes, MLS has stringent player contract and payment models but you get the point. A player of quality could be had and loaned to the bigger club without it violating any rules. Conversely, in England were the size of squads are being restricted, the MLS seems a great place for a club with unlimited fund to buy loads of talented young players and offload them without the club taking any hit.

The broader problem is that this has potential to expand to leagues outside the MLS, it can happen with any league throughout the world, outside of Europe. Whether it is a link up with an American side, an Asian side, an Australian side or a South American side. They would all act as the middle man, absorbing the cost of the transfer into their accounts – which is then written off by their owners – and allowing the European side to stay with UEFA FFP rules.

It’s not all too dissimilar to what already happens throughout the business world. For example, Starbucks use second tier companies based in tax havens to ‘buy beans’ to ensure their UK business does not make a profit, therefore avoiding UK Corporation tax. This method could work in a very similar method, with football clubs using sides outside of Europe to write off expensive transfer’s.

The MLS has very strict financial rules with regards to wages, however, these will also be circumnavigated as the European club will take the wage. I am also sure the MLS will turn a blind eye to being accomplices to this loophole if it ensures the League see’s a bit of the oil money currently in Europe. $100 million a franchise buys a lot of friends.

How these link up’s between European and MLS sides actually works will still be a case of ‘wait and see’ but the speculation of the scenario above, that European clubs will use them as an FFP avoidance scheme has real potential and should be a worrying sign. But we know it won’t – so long as everyone gets their palm greased.

This article was originally written and published by Keenos for our American friends YOUAREMYARSENAL.




Wenger’s tactics, Facing Madrid et al, Throwing the CL, Coefficients, Cazorla/Draxler swap and more…

Did Wenger get the tactics wrong?

Last night, Arsenal played if they had to lose by 3 goal to be knocked out. They set out defensively to do this. Was this wrong, or should Arsenal have set up more attacking to top the group? What is clear as the game went on was that we were more concerned with qualifying than topping the group. The Ramsey substitution over Theo Walcott is a perfect example. The game was opening up, Walcott’s pace could have been a game changer, yet Wenger chose the safer option of keeping the middle strong, and retaining possession. Would Arsenal fans have moaned had Wenger stuck Walcott on, he lost the ball in the build up to a goal and Napoli won 3-0? We probably would have.

From the defensive line up, to defensive substitutions to running down the clock when 1-0, Arsenal players a management succeeded in their goal of losing by 3 goals or more. We set up cautiously to ensure we went through. We got out of a tough group, but should the goal have been to top the group?

Facing Madrid, Barca et al

So finishing 2nd means we have to play one of; Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. It is no easy task, and leaves many a fan frustrated, especially when you look at the list of those sides we’d have faced if we topped the group (Leverkuson, Galatasary, Olympiakos, Zenith, AC Milan, Schalke). I am however, a firm believer that you have to play the best to win the best. At its kindest, you could possibly avoid Europe’s top teams up to the Semi Final stage, but this would still leave us facing 2 of them. We would have to beat them anyway, so playing them in the 2nd round does not matter.

People running round saying ‘We finished 2nd, so we are out” are basically admitting that as soon as we face a big side in Europe, we will get knocked out, so surely then they are happy we finished 2nd, as in their eyes, we can not win the competition, so we are better off out early so that we can concentrate on the league?

Personally, I am rooting for either Real Madrid or PSG. For the former it is because the Bernabeu is one of the few major European stadium I have yet to visit, for PSG, the EuroStar will be messy.

Should we ‘throw’ the Champions League

Arsenal have now been in the Champions League for 16 years on the trot. Only twice have we come close to winning it. The final defeat to Barcelona in 2005/06 and the QF defeat to Chelsea in 2003/04. No other season have we had the starting 11 or the squad which is good enough to win. Therefore, it makes me wonder, what is the point of the Champions League if you go into it not expecting to win it?

The point is money, and lots of it. That money allows you to buy better players, pay higher wages, and build a team which gives you an advantage on a domestic level. Last years winners got €55m from the competition. Arsenal made €32m. That is a difference of €23m or £19m. A big difference, yes, but it is not too disastrous. It is clear that financial wise, it is just as important to qualify for the Champions League (Chelsea & City, both knocked out in the groups, got around €30m) as win it. It makes me wonder then, why do we bother? Why not just qualify, then put out or kids. Rest the 1st team for the Premier League battle. Take the €30m and run. It might be defeatest, but as we saw with Everton, freshness is a factor in the Premier League.


A discussion yesterday with @simonrichardafc about the effect that continually getting knocked out of the Champions League 2nd round could have on our European Coefficient. After studying the UEFA website, it is clear you need around 100,000 coefficient points to remain in the Top 8 of Europe. Our recent history shows that by making, and getting knocked out in, the 2nd round gets you around 22,000 points. Consistently getting through the knock-out stages is enough.

Yes, if 8 teams continually start making the QF, this will change, but that is unlikely. A look at Dortmund’s current ranking, as a team on the way up, highlights the safety Arsenal have. They currently sit on 69,000 points. If they win the Champions League this year, they will not be in the Top 8. They will have to win it this year, and get through to the 2nd round next year to make the Top 8. PSG would have to do the same. But obviously only 1 can win.

And if you agree with my ‘take the money and run’ mantra of earlier, our coefficient does not matter, as the importance, money wise, is qualifying for the Champions League, not progressing.

Cazorla/Draxler swap

Santi Cazorla is looking a frustrated man at Arsenal. He has gone from main man last year, to now slipping behind Ozil, Ramsey & Mertesacker in importance. He is continually the ‘1st sub’ and his performances this year have been poor. Yes, he has suffered from injury, and has had to re-adapt to playing left wing (although he played out there a lot), but you have to wonder, if he, due to turn 29 tomorrow, has peaked and is starting a downward spiral in performances. With the interest in Draxler, who looks most comfortable on the left wing, you have to wonder if this could be Cazorla’s last at Arsenal. With a man 9 years his junior coming in.

At best, if we sign Draxler, Cazorla will become a squad, and a bloody good one. At worse, we will get our money back on him moving him to Spain. What I do not want to see is an Arshavin type decline.

Downward Spiral

No wins in 2 games. Some Arsenal fan’s are starting to talk of a downward spiral. Hopefully it is the same downward spiral that followed defeat at home to Munich earlier this year.



Paul Davis set to become Arsenal’s new Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy

With Liam Brady set to step down as current Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy, the club are currently looking at numerous names to step into the boots of the Arsenal legend.

Brady has been in charge of the Arsenal Youth Academy since 1996. After a review by The FA last year which saw them warn Arsenal that they were at risk of losing Academy status, and with it the prestige and funding that go’s with the status, changes had to be made. One of the area’s where The FA were reportedly heavily critical was in the management and leadership of the academy, with Brady taking the brunt of that blame. A decision was then made that the Academy needed new leadership, a new direction and that Brady would leave Arsenal when his contract expires in May 2014.

This move was enough to satisfy The FA to allow Arsenal to keep their academy status, with another review set after May 2014 to see how the new Director has changed things. Arsenal being the classy club they are have allowed Brady to leave on his own terms, with Brady announcing himself that he will leave the roll, rather than it appearing he is being pushed aside by the club. It is likely that Brady will be offered another role with the club, potentially on the media side, or a match day ambassadorial role.

This leaves Arsenal with a big hole to fill, one which they have to start filling now to ensure they not only secure the future of Arsenal’s academy, but ensure that future Jack Wilshere’s come through at a more consistent rate.

A few early names have already been mooted as his replacement.

Dennis Bergkamp is seemingly the fans favourite, but this is unlikely. Whilst fans will do anything to see the Dutchman back at the club, it is unlikely that the role of Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy will suit him. After working as assistant manager to Frank De Boer at Ajax, a move to oversee the academy would be a step down. He see’s himself as a manager, however his fear of flying means it is more likely that he will have a career as a very good assistant manager. He will join Arsenal in the future, but will be with the 1st team set up, not with the academy.

There are a few names from within the club currently who could be promoted within.

Liam Brady’s right hand man is David Court. He has also been with the academy since 1996 and is the most natural successor to Brady within the club. However, after stinging criticism from The FA, the question mark above him is would he just be Brady Mark II, and not actually move the academy forward as required? A brilliant servant to the club, he is more likely to remain as the new academy director’s number 2, ensuring that despite the big change at the top, there is some continuity underneath.

First team coach Neil Banfield has previously managed various youth teams at Arsenal winning two FA Youth Cups, an FA Premier Academy League U17 title in 1999-00 and an Academy League U19 title in 2003–04. Whilst he certainly has the track record for the role, he provides an important link between the youth sides and the 1st team, often being the 1st team coach who puts the arm around the youngsters and ensures that they feel comfortable when joining the first team. His role as that link is perhaps too important to see him become Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy.

Terry Burton, who replaced Neil Banfield as Reserves & Head Development coach in 2012 is another name in the frame. With a long association with Arsenal – having been captain of the Youth Cup winning side back in 1971 – he certainly has the credentials for the job. Whilst he never made it as a professional football, this enabled him to go into coaching early, seeing him return to Arsenal in 1979 as youth team coach. He was in charge of the set up as reserve team coach the last time Arsenal had a top academy, when the likes of Tony Adams, Paul Davis, Martin Keown, Paul Merson and Rocky Rocastle were breaking through. He would be a very good choice as Brady’s replacement. Whether at the age of 60, he is the man who would be a solid, long term option, is the only negative.

The last name in the frame, and perhaps the favourite for the job, is former Arsenal player Paul Davis. A surprising inclusion, mainly due to the fact that many people will not know what Davis has been doing since leaving Arsenal in 1995.

In 1996, he became a youth coach within Arsenal, where he remained until 2003. He went on to join The Professional Footballers’ Association coaching department, where he now holds the role of Regional Coach Educator for London and the South East. He has gained the FA and Pro UEFA Coaching awards, the highest in British coaching, as well as the UEFA ‘A’ Licence and the FA Diploma in Football Management.

He certainly has the qualifications and foresight, but it is the fact he is already involved in coaching coaches that is important.

Being the Director of an academy is less about coaching the youngster’s and more about overseeing the coaches coaching them. It involves man management and being able to direct and better those coaches. It is also important that they can oversee the entire academy. With Davis already employed as a coach’s coach, he would be the ideal candidate to come in and take over from Brady as new Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy.

Add in the fact he has played over 400 times for the club, he would be comfortable and fit in seamlessly within the staff, At 51, he has both the experience and time ahead of him to make real improvements to the academy.

With Brady not due to leave Arsenal until May 2014, there is still plenty of time for the club to discuss other candidates. But as it stands, top of the list will be Paul Davis.