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Is Financial Fair Play Stifling The Ambition Of AFC Bournemouth?

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Designed to create a level playing field, is Financial Fair Play doing exactly the opposite?

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By: Gareth Davies (Community)

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December 2008. I didn't think things could get any worse. In the League Two relegation zone, well adrift of safety and playing some of the worst football I have ever seen under the hapless Jimmy Quinn. But then the proverbial really did hit the fan, knocked out of the FA Cup by Conference North team Blyth Spartans. For the first time in over twenty years, I was embarrassed to support AFC Bournemouth.

When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up and although that fateful night in the North East can’t really be described as a watershed moment, it is a stark reminder of how far the Club has since come in such a short space of time. Without boring you with the finer details, the Club recovered from the Blyth debacle to avoid relegation and two promotions later, Bournemouth are now in the Championship. It’s been some journey; one I hope doesn't just stop in the second tier either.

With a vibrant young manager, exciting talented squad and an ambitious owner, the next target is most definitely the Premier League. The performances on the pitch in the second half of last season saw Eddie Howe’s charges flirt briefly with the play-offs before being content with a tenth placed finish, the highest in the Club’s history. All looks rosy in the Cherries garden but there is a difficulty on the horizon; Financial Fair Play.

FFP, the brainchild of UEFA to try and minimise the financial liabilities that Clubs incur has taken lots of column inches and airtime in the media recently with the situations facing Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain well documented. There has also been the startling revelation that Queens Park Rangers have a bigger wage bill than both the last two runners-up in the Champions League Final. Further down the football food chain though, teams like Bournemouth could also see FFP greatly affect them too.

The Cherries have gone from almost constant financial hardship to now being under control of wealthy Russian businessman Maxim Denim. He has poured millions of his personal fortune into the Club, although his appearances at the Goldsands Stadium are rare, choosing to appoint the affluent Jeff Mostyn as Chairman instead.
Mostyn has had to face some difficult questions recently as it was revealed that Bournemouth lost over £15 million pounds in the last financial year. A huge price to pay for success and it would seem that this figure may increase in 12 months time, especially with the holy grail of the Premier League the aim.

These losses are exactly what FFP is trying to put a stop too. Clubs in the Championship can only lose £8 million per season, with that figure reduced to £3 million if in Bournemouth’s case; the owner injects equity into the business. UEFA hopes that this will see Club’s drastically cut their cloth far more accordingly, adopting the approach seen in German football where a wealthy owner with deep pockets isn’t needed and Club’s find other more commercial ways of generating income.

England has a problem though. The huge globalisation of the Premier League in recent years has in turn seen the competition awash with money due to billion pound TV deals. Parachute payments for teams relegated to the Championship have increased dramatically, meaning teams like Bournemouth are at a huge disadvantage in comparison to many of their competitors before a ball has even been kicked.

To temper this unlevel playing field, benefactors like the aforementioned Denim are willing to in effect, pour money into a bottomless pit but FFP is hoping to put a stop to this. Heavy fines and possible point’s deductions are probable sanctions for offenders even though Bournemouth’s owner is willing to almost write off his monies in pursuit of promotion.

FFP does have morally good intentions although as we are all acutely aware, football is a business like no other and its implementation, certainly in England, could have a detrimental effect for the game so long as it wants to expand globally at its present rate.

Links and references:

Financial Fair Play explained: http://www.financialfairplay.co.uk/financial-fair-play-explained.php

Jeff Mostyn hopes for FFP changes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/27297882

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