Final Word: The Greedy Game

With soccer being the most popular sport in world, you would think that its main governing body would be a fair overseer of the game. That assumption couldn’t be more wrong.

Art by Greg Laursen

Art by Greg Laursen

Roei Ziv, Head Columnist

The idea that sports is a money-driven business is nothing new. At the end of the day, sports teams are trying to make as much money as possible. They are a business. 

But what is currently happening in the soccer world is corrupting the sport, and freezing out the fans that have dedicated their lives to supporting their respective teams. 

Every single professional soccer team in the world is a part of Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA for short. This organization is the governing body of world soccer, and is responsible for maintaining the game. 

As a governing body, FIFA has several rules and regulations that every single one of its members must follow. One of these rules is the “Financial Fair Play,” or FFP rule. Just like any other law, the official wording is complicated, but when simplified, this rule clearly states that no club can spend more than they earn/bring in. 

Typically, a soccer club’s biggest expenses are buying players and paying their players on a weekly basis, and their biggest profits come from selling those players to other clubs, as well as any profits they make off of ticket sales and the selling of merchandise. 

Although the rule, especially in relation to FFP, is incredibly clear, there have been significant discrepancies in the enforcement of the law. 

Just like in any regulatory organization, money talks. The clubs that bring in the most money for the organization (Manchester City, Paris Saint Germain, etc.), are almost immune from any consequences, because if they were to be punished, FIFA would lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. 

Over the past five or so years, Manchester City, who were bought a decade ago by the Abu Dhabi United Group, a group of extremely wealthy investors mainly from the United Arab Emirates, have spent over 619 million euros (over 720 million dollars) more than they have brought in, and that is on players alone. That does not count their brand new state-of-the-art training facility, and their immense weekly wage bill from player salaries. 

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

That, of course, is a blatant violation of FFP, but of course, FIFA does not punish the club because of how much money and attention they bring to the sport. A few years ago, UEFA, the European soccer governing body, decided to take action against Manchester City by barring them from participating in the UEFA Champions League, the most popular and coveted club soccer competition in the world. 

Manchester City immediately filed an appeal, because a ban from the Champions League would see the club lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars, and the attraction it needs for players to want to play at the club. 

Just a few days after UEFA announced this ban, Manchester City’s appeal was granted, and to the lack of shock for the rest of the soccer world, they were allowed to continue competing in the competition. 

Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, an Israeli soccer club not even near the ranks of Manchester City, and therefore does not spend nearly as much money as them. In 2015, Maccabi qualified for the Champions League, an unprecedented accomplishment for a club of their size. 

In an attempt to compete with the massive clubs they will be playing against, Maccabi made moves in the transfer window, buying players for more than they would usually do with the huge influx of profits they made from making the Champions League. 

FIFA rewarded them with a three year transfer ban, where they would not be able to spend a cent on players. 

It’s this type of financial inequality in the sport that has corrupted the sport. The big teams become richer and the smaller teams are left behind. 

FIFA has never been a “governing” body in the world of soccer. It has been, and always will be a money-grabbing corrupt group of people sitting in their high-rise building slowly taking away the beauty from the beautiful game.