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See you in court over financial fair play?

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What are the chances of a legal challenge to Uefa's financial fair play regulations.  Our legal eagle Duncan McHardy makes an assessment in a contributed article:


UEFA's capacity to regulate has habitually raised eyebrows with European Union legislators and practitioners alike. The Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFPR) are by no means an exception.

Previous UEFA regulations have walked the lawful/unlawful tightrope however  since the infamous case of Bosman we are yet to see a significant legal challenge. That might be set to change when the FFPR enter into force in 2012 and compromise the financial autonomy of big spending clubs like Manchester City.

Several legal commentators suggested that the 2006/2007 "locally-trained" regulations would lead to litigation given their indirect discriminatory effect against non-domestic players. And who could forget the "transfer windows", which regulate the when player transfers  may be sanctioned by the domestic authorities such as the FA. The effect here is to prevent wealthier clubs from buying players whenever they fancy  and yet, by definition, this amounts to an unlawful restriction on the fundamental movement of individuals within the European Union.

The FFPR have been criticised as an "unlawful barrier" for ambitious clubs owing to their anti-competitive effect. Restrictions on the manner in which clubs seek investment and spend monies are all too familiar for clubs in the Bundesliga. It is English clubs therefore that will be brought down to the continental "playing field".

UEFA's saving grace for the FFPR may lie in finer provisions of EU competition law (Article 101(3) of the TFEU, formerly 81(3) TEU for those interested). This legal exemption provision would required UEFA to show that the FFPR had positive effects in the European football market as a whole. Further, the FFPR must be deemed proportional and indespensible to warrant an exemption.

Try telling that to Sheikh Monsour, who has a bottomless pit of cash to mount a legal challenge and argue otherwise.