Last night, immediately after the final whistle which saw Bayern Munich lift their fifth European Cup on the back of Arjen Robben’s goal in the 89th minute, I made the mistake of tuning into a popular British sports talk (hint hint) radio station. Mere minutes after play had ended at Wembley stadium, one of the commentators grimly declared that Bayern’s win over Dortmund, a team with half the Bavarian club’s wage bill, was the result of financial fair play forever cementing the dominance of historical footballing giants. It’s over. Kloppo’s BvB had lost. The little guy will never win.
It was such an absurd claim I actually rewound the tape as it were (you can do this on certain radio apps) and listened to it again. Sure enough, that’s exactly what he’d said: Bayern beating Dortmund was a sign the minnows were forever shut out of the European party, thanks to FFP.
I wondered where this line of reasoning had come from, and then I recalled Martin Samuel’s interview with Michel Platini published the day before, in which the Daily Mail writer bombarded the UEFA president with questions about the supposed side effects of FFP, that the rule which forbid spending in excess of turnover (within certain limits) would forever seal the dominance of a handful of clubs and shut out the rest. The idea here is that the only way to muscle into top spots was to spend a whack of money, which invariably means excessive financial losses. Without the ability to do that, smaller teams are screwed.
This is a bold claim. At the very least, it suggests that money spent on wage bills and transfer payments has a very strong causal relationship with winning trophies, whether at the domestic level or in Europe. Samuel’s been making this argument for years now, and, alarmingly, Platini had a woeful time defending FFP from these accusations. Perhaps this was a case of Platini rarely answering his critics, I don’t know.
It shouldn’t be that difficult to defend FFP from these claims, really. The 2012-2013 Champions League provides an excellent case study, in fact.
At nil-nil in the Champions League final, Dortmund had created several great chances with shots on goal to boot. Both Roman Weidenfeller and Manuel Neuer had to be completely on their game to keep the game scoreless in the first half. Both sides had seven shots, with Dortmund edging them out on shots on target (5-3). Even with the score at 1-1, it was a close contest almost to the very end. The winning goal came in the 89th minute from a sumptuous back-heeled pass from Frank Ribery into the path of Arjen Robben, who feinted and slotted home to win it.
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