Over at ESPN Gabriele Marcotti has a Q & A over UEFA’s Financial Fair Play provisions, rules that forever seem to be “upcoming” rather than “in effect.” While his apologies for the “boring subject” are laid on a bit thick, it’s a pretty decent primer. Favourite question:

Q: So if these rules are coming in and wealthy owners won’t be able to rack up huge losses year after year, how do you explain the massive spending of Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris St. Germain and, most recently, Zenit, with their $100 million swoop for Hulk and Axel Witsel?

A: I don’t know. I guess they have a plan to massively increase revenue down the road. Because that’s another point that people are missing. If you read Annex XI of the FFP regulations (boring, I know) the suggestion is that, as long as clubs are moving in the right direction and have some plan to reach break-even, they’ll be OK. Ultimately, it’s all at UEFA’s discretion.

This is the core problem with FFP: it’s more the Rule of Discretion than the Rule of Law. Which takes the stuffing out of the plan, particularly when it comes to the punitive side. If and when UEFA does decide to prevent a club from playing in the Champions League, it will seem in the end the arbitrary decision of the governing body, rather than the natural outcome of breaking the law.

It’s also part of the reason why it seems like FFP will never in fact “come into effect.” Currently FFP only exists to provide the media with an easy means to explain various transfer decisions, and for chairman to defend their hesitation in over paying for potentially shit players.

“Well, this decision was likely made with an eye to FFP” and so on. It’s a kind of speculative madlibs in which FFP covers a gap in explaining why Liverpool didn’t sign Clint Dempsey. FFP has become the transfer window frog DNA.