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Financial Fair Play: working, but still not fair

New data from the Guardian shows that FFP is having a positive effect on club finances.

I searched for "Financial Fair Play". I got a picture of Rio.
I searched for "Financial Fair Play". I got a picture of Rio.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

I, and many other people, have long been skeptical of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules. One of the big issues with it for me is that it formalizes and strengthens the divide between the haves and the have-lesses.  By limiting a team's spending to a percentage of what they earn over a few years, it ensures that clubs who earn more, Top Club Club-type clubs, will always be able to spend more than those at the middle or bottom of the table that have significantly smaller revenue streams.

Setting that aside for a moment, though, there's news today that FFP is having at least two good effects. The Guardian did a survey of 2013-14 financial data for clubs (the most recent complete financials available, broken out team by team here), and it discovered the following:

- Overall, Premier League income is up 22% from 2012-13, and the league showed an overall profit of £198 million
- 15 of the 20 Premier League clubs made a profit in 2013-14
- While income is up 22%, player wages only rose 5% in that same period

That last bullet, to me, is by far the most important and best outcome of FFP. One of the habits of leagues and teams over the years was that any time a new TV or media deal was done that resulted in a large increase in a team's share of media payments, that share by and large went straight into the pockets of players. A look at Arsenal's wage bills as recently as 2012, when the likes of Marouane Chamakh were making £60,000 a week, shows how big a problem that was.

With FFP, though, wage increases are tied to current payroll - if a club has a current wage bill over £52 million, which all but about four clubs do, they can only increase their total wages by £8 million this season, and £12 million a season starting next season, with the important caveat that wages can still be increased beyond that as long as those increases do not come from TV money but from a club's commercial revenue (game day, sponsorship, etc).

So, while FFP is still far from perfect - the rich keep getting richer, and the not-rich keep treading water - at least on the wage and cost-control front, it seems to be doing its job pretty well. While the Premier League will never achieve, nor does it want to achieve, total financial parity, the FFP regulations that they're abiding by now seem to be having a positive effect on wage inflation, which is good news for the lesser-monied of the league.