27 September ~ In a previous stint at the helm of Germany’s top club, Jupp Heynckes reached the European Cup semi-final on two occasions, bowing out to AC Milan and Red Star Belgrade in 1990 and 1991 respectively. Going one better than that this season would be doubly special, as the Champions League final will be played at Bayern Munich’s home stadium, the Allianz Arena. For many, such success would also be a vindication of the stringent financial regulations placed on German clubs by the footballing authorities there.

No team is allowed to spend beyond their means (running up huge debts can be punished with demotion to a lower league) and the “50+1 rule” means that no single person can take a controlling stake in a football club. Bayern have continued to spend freely on new players, chalking up over €30 million (£26m) in transfer fees this summer, but they operate free of debt and are vocal in their support of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations.

This is in stark contrast to the situation in England, where many top-flight clubs are dependent on the largesse of a wealthy benefactor and where operating at a loss is seen as perfectly normal: and that despite being the recipients of the most lucrative TV deal in English football history. Manchester City are often held up as the clearest example of this distorted reality in the Premier League, and they shelled out £63m on new players this summer alone. Quite how Sheikh Mansour’s massive investment in the club will comply with UEFA’s new financial framework in 2012 remains to be seen.

It does seem that Roberto Mancini is finally starting to mould an attractive team from his expensively assembled collection of superstar signings. If he sticks to the fast, attacking football that has characterised some of City’s league performances this season, then this could pose the first real test of Bayern’s new defensive solidity.

Sergio Agüero has settled very quickly and Edin Dzeko’s track record at Wolfsburg means that Bayern will be well aware of his goalscoring ability. However, it seems just as likely that the Italian coach could revert to the rigid defensive tactics that characterised his first full season in charge in Manchester and decide to play for a point in Munich.

Either way, the form and fitness of Bayern’s star wingers could be decisive, especially as Franck Ribery is close to the form that persuaded Bayern to make him the best-paid player at the club. However, Arjen Robben, instrumental in Bayern’s run to the Champions League final in 2010, has hardly featured this season due to recurring injury problems, and there are even rumours that his return tonight would unbalance the side that has shot to the top of the Bundesliga table.

Just as importantly, Heynckes seems to have made good progress on sorting out the defensive problems that plagued the club last season. New signings Jerome Boateng and Rafinha have slotted in at the back and made a major contribution to the recently set club record of eight consecutive victories, with no goals conceded. Meanwhile, Mario Gomez has continued to plunder goals at will, with two hat-tricks already this season. If this Bayern team can avoid the in-fighting and tactical confusion that cost them so dearly in the last campaign, then they will prove a major obstacle to Manchester City’s dreams of European glory. John Van Laer

Comments (21)
Comment by StephL 2011-09-27 11:18:05

Does anyone REALLY believe that this "Financial Fair-Play" stuff will work?

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-09-27 13:07:47

The German financial model is definitely something to be admired. But I sometimes wonder, are German fans happy that their clubs cannot compete on a level playing field with the big-spending English and Spanish clubs in European club competitions? I certainly never hear of any noises of that nature. Maybe they are able to accept it as a temporary inequality which will be corrected by the Financial Fair Play regime, when that finally comes into force. Out of interest, what is the German view on the way that Wenger is being urged by many Arsenal fans to set aside the club policy of youth development and financial prudence, in favour of joining in with the cash-splurging bonanza that the rest of Europe's major clubs (excluding Germany's) are currently engaged in?

Maybe German fans take comfort from the success of their national side, which presumably owes something to the German clubs' limited facility to bring in expensive foreign imports, and the consequent necessity to make greater use of local young German talent. And maybe for German fans the success of the national side is adequate compensation for the difficulty their clubs will have in ever winning any European trophies while financial doping is so rife.

Or maybe they are happy to be able to watch top-class football at a fraction of the price that the rest of us are playing, for something that is often inferior to the German offering.

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2011-09-27 15:00:53

I'd be more interested to hear what German fans think of their clubs being left behind by Bayern financially already, without being handicapped by the FFP nonsense. All FFP will do is ensure that the existing biggest and wealthiest clubs will never be challenged. Once the billionaires behind Chelsea and Man City are no longer allowed to put personal money in, there will be no one to challenge ManU in this country.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-09-27 15:20:33

Holding up Bayern Munich as a bastion of equality in football is ridiculous. They have dominated German football to the same extent that Liverpool and Man Utd have domintated the English game combined. German football was always mollycoddled by the football authorities compared to much criticised English game.

I will be cheering City tonight. Chelski where and are so disliked mainly because of a perceived arrogance of their tapping up regime and the turgid playing style of the Mourinho period. To be fair to City they look like they want to win with style and some money looks like it will be used for English grass roots.

Comment by Coral 2011-09-27 16:10:25

Exactly what I was going to say MoeTheBarMan, at least Man City can spend big without it being at the expense of others. Bayern can only exist as they are by keeping others down.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-09-27 16:49:25

Financial fair play is nothing but a thinly veiled attack on the success of the Premier League. English club football made a full recovery from the Heysel ban to lead the UEFA coefficient and so UEFA decided to do something about this disgusting triumph. A high standard of football in these Isles is most unsightly to UEFA.

Of course when English football was on its knees in the late 80s UEFA were first in line to kick it in the teeth denying the likes of Wimbledon and Luton European football and neatly sidestepping any blame. Thats UEFAs true colours when it comes to protecting small clubs.

Comment by Coral 2011-09-27 16:57:53

Not sure that is true because this is going to hurt Spain just as much if not more. I think it is a noble idea to try and bring some sort of control on finances but it is really just slotting in a glass ceilling for a lot clubs. Bayern are of course delighted with it because it will keep them safe from upstarts like Hoffenhiem, in England Man Utd will benefit from being safe from challengers like Chelsea in future.

Comment by jameswba 2011-09-28 07:24:15

The final sentence has a beautiful irony to it after what happened on the City bench. What will City do now? Tevez will or won't be paid to leave and another precious, moody striker will be brought in for 40-50 million quid before deciding, in 6 months time or so,that he doesn't like Manchester/Mancini/grey skies/Oasis either and thus won't play anymore.

Bayern Munich dominate German football? And there was me thinking that Dortmund (twice), Bremen, Stuttgart and Wolfsburg had all won the Bundesliga title since the turn of the millenium.

Comment by Coral 2011-09-28 10:13:12

Good point Jameswba in that last sentence, but having seen Dortmund win the title, how many of their best players are still there? Even with Champion's league football? Now look at how Bayern are doing. The simple matter of the fact is that Bayern will dominate, they may have a few years where they don't win but they will come back because of their financial might compared to the others. That said I do admire Germany's policy that the clubs must be majority owned by the fans with the couple of exceptions.

Comment by TheNonFlyingFrenchman 2011-09-28 10:29:07

Some random points :
- France also has strict financial regulations. Not in terms of shared ownership, but in terms of debt. Deficit is simply not allowed. At the end of each season a regulatory commission checks up accounts. When a club is in deficit, if owners don't put straight money from their pocket, the club will be demoted to a lower league. PSG and OM came close once or twice, and their owners were always asked to provide for the missing money. It partially explains why, although having had a highly successful national team for the past 15 years, our clubs somewhat lag a bit behind in Europe.
Manchester United would be playing in amateur leagues by now (or, more realistically, owned by cheikhs who can afford investing money without leveraging). Not to mention Real and Barça, of course, who wouldn't even exist.

- I wonder how FFP will be enforced. Man City are already trying to find alternative ways of artificially raising the cash invested (naming rights for 30m£/year, directly from another company held by the Mansour family...ludicrous). I think owners will always find a way to avoid those constraints.

- "Financial fair play is nothing but a thinly veiled attack on the success of the Premier League."
Is this a wind up ? The Premier League is definitely successful as a competition and as a business as a whole. But do you really think its clubs are exemplary business models ? Arsenal is, Stoke is, Swansea is that's all. La Liga is the worst example of course, but the Premier League doesn't lag that far behind. Players are paid insane amounts which are almost never recouped by clubs. Remember the time when Sol Campbell was the 15th best paid player in the world at Portsmouth...

I'm for FFP all the way, so we finally can see clubs wisely managed working their way up the ladder. And for the record I'm a PSG supporter, not the best example of all you will reckon.

Comment by cannelldocam 2011-09-28 12:50:31

I'm for FFP but only if it's done properly. From what I can tell it's being enforced on the basis of a club's debt - this will have zero impact on Man City and Chelsea given that they are not borrowing for success, but having cash thrown at them.

If the system were to base itself on trading p&l then it could be very different - Man City then would have to sell enough shirts/corporate boxes/prawn sarnies to be comensurate with their bumper wage bill, and that might start to do an effective job of levelling the playing field.

Although if their sugar daddies do end up getting the hump and pulling the plug, it will of course leave the club liable for numerous £200k per week salaries. Portsmouth but on an epic scale.

And of course it's the long term fans that suffer all this - the glory seekers all just drift off to the next self appointed Billy Big B0llocks club to start chucking its wallet around.

Comment by Coral 2011-09-28 13:39:41

Just to cut and paste a few things:
"France also has strict financial regulations. Not in terms of shared ownership, but in terms of debt. Deficit is simply not allowed."
"But do you really think its clubs are exemplary business models ? Arsenal is"
"From what I can tell it's being enforced on the basis of a club's debt - this will have zero impact on Man City and Chelsea"

In France the stadiums are usually provided by the council to which the clubs pay a rent. Arsenal had to go into £600m of debt to build theirs. However they are a good model. Fulham have a huge debt but people ignore this because they are not spending on players like Man City and Chelsea so this seems to be alright.

It is really not a simple thing to say spending lots and getting into debt is bad, spending only money you earn is good. If the debt is sustainable it is fine, and judging whether it is or not is very subjective. Who is to say Abramovic would a) pull out or b) call in all his loans when he does this.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-09-28 14:05:22

English clubs have been privately owned since day 1 back in the 19th century. Pretty much every city and province has at least one fully pro club. Theres hundreds of pro or semi pro football clubs spanning across several divisions in every corner of the UK. Are UEFA really going to go through all these clubs accounts with a fine tooth comb?

Its fabulous that the German and French football authorities can nanny their state run handful of small clubs but extending this on a pan European scale particularly throughout the UK is an incredible waste of resources. As a key member of FIFA arent UEFAs resources better deployed fighting corruption at the very top of the game? Protecting the integrity and the spirit of the sport itself seems very far from the agenda and as usual its far easier for them to knock every aspect of the English game rather than to do their own jobs properly.

Comment by TheNonFlyingFrenchman 2011-09-28 20:27:20

I'm OK, Coral (hoho).
My description was definitely too simplistic as it depends on many factors. You rightfully pointed to each country specificities (France = no self-owned stadia a regulatory commission, Spain = absurd TV rights distribution no protection when clubs put in administration...), which will not help enforcing rules at a larger scale.

Still, as far as I'm concerned, there are different types of debt. One type means a strong collateral, the other means plain mismanagement. Arsenal have put themselves in a huge debt to build a stadium which has risen drastically their income : this is good management. Portsmouth/Fulham/whatever are in debt because they pay unsustainable wages fees on players, who are NOT a collateral (a player goes on day or another, not a stadium).

ManCity/Chelsea are another problem. Because of their owners they can afford losing millions every week. But what will happen when Abrahamovich/the Mansour Family get bored and stop investing money ? I am reasonably confident about that one : exactly what happened at Portsmouth, if on a far larger scale.

So what would you prefer :
- UEFA "wasting" some resources for clubs to behave more responsibly (which would certainly imply less clubs left in tatters a la Portsmouth, Crystal Palace, Plymouth et al)
- or you and your friends/neighbors "wasting" money when you club goes in administration, because laws mean the players will be paid first, and the government/local authorities/companies can f*ck off to get anything back ?

If I were one of the locals to which Portsmouth paid back only 20p in the pound I would, rightfully, be very angered.

You live above your means = You don't play : it seems a fair principle to me. In your own leagues the Championship have taken a remarkable measure going the same way : no wage bill above 70% of the club's income. That's already one step forward.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-09-29 09:23:35

Unfortunately UEFA doesnt present English clubs with your choice its simply

English Clubs have sustained success the Champions Cup = UEFA will concoct a reason to ban them to make up for the shortcomings of other leagues

And as for…….. You live beyond your means = you dont play....

Excellent so lets wipe out all clubs in the UK who are struggling with debt. All that English football history gone in the blink of an eye now youre really talking UEFAs and FIFAs language.

Comment by Coral 2011-09-29 10:17:55

"France = no self-owned stadia a regulatory commission, Spain = absurd TV rights distribution no protection when clubs put in administration..." You also missed off the fact that Council tax money goes into the coffers as well and in the famous example in Spain of Madrid they offer to buy facilities which conveniently wipe out debt before selling brand new facilities at cut prices.

"Portsmouth/Fulham/whatever are in debt because they pay unsustainable wages fees on players" But they are sustainable because Fulham have been paying them for years now. In that time they have also managed to redevelop the stadium.

You don't know whether Chelsea or Man City's owners will pull out anymore than you know that the Spanish TV network won't crash like On Digital leaving Madrid and Barcelona with a gaping whole in their accounts. If Chelsea's owners did pull out and stopped all cash to them it would not be the same as Pompey because the although wages are greater (but at Pompey you did have someone like Utaka on 80k week) they are not hugely different and Chelsea have a global profile and significantly champion's league football. And significantly look what happened with Liverpool, had dodgy owners but unlike Portsmouth they have global appeal and had numerous wealthy buyers looking to pick them up. If the same happened with Chelsea do you really think there would be know wealthy backer looking to come in?

I think you have some decent points but your choice of what is good and bad practice is too subjective. For me Everton and Valencia are a serious issues as one has money from a mortgage based on future tv rights and the other survived mostly by gambling on Champions's League money. Clubs given lots of money are not a concern and the examples where teams have gone under are those that are not major clubs.

Comment by Mr Beast 2011-09-29 11:58:33

reddybrek - you haven't come remotely close to giving any evidence for any anti - English club agenda.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-09-29 12:09:22

Well lets see how this pans out because it seemed to be fine and dandy when its italian or spanish clubs throwing money about but suddenly its a problem when its an english club

Excellent example by Coral. Real Madrid where bankrolled by local government to pay off their massive debts for the Galacticos mk 1 because of an arrangement by which they oversold their training ground to the council. Nothing at all has been done about because UEFA turned the mother of all blind eyes and yet Platini wants to stick the boot in the likes of Chelsea and City.

Spanish taxpayers money will be used to pay for Ronaldo, Kaka, Alonso etc and UEFA will do nothing about it while at the same time making an example of the English clubs by punishing them for their success. The evidence of anti english sentiment throughout FIFA and UEFA piles up by the day

Comment by Mr Beast 2011-09-29 12:21:10

Yes, that Real Madrid case is a disgrace. So remind me which country's taxpayers funded Manchester City's stadium and are set to reward West Ham with one? What did UEFA do about that? Nothing.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-09-29 12:34:33

This is true.

However English football isnt given the luxury of hosting major football tournaments every single decade like the French and Germans so arent bankrolled to build new or revamp thier grounds on a regular 10 year basis so what are UEFA and FIFA going to do about that?

Oh yeah thats right theyre actually responsible for it

Comment by Coral 2011-09-29 14:33:08

"So remind me which country's taxpayers funded Manchester City's stadium" The one that City had to pay £30m to convert and were asked to move into to avoid it being a white elephant? The one that was not purpose built by the council with Man City in mind unlike say the Ajax Arena for Ajax?

As for the Olympic stadium, we shall see but again this is more the football club doing the council a favour and the main issue with the legal wrangling etc is that the stadium was never meant to be a football stadium but there were concerns about its viability.

In both examples this is more about football clubs helping the council than visa versa. Certainly if Tottenham moved in to stadium their council would be very unhappy.

I am not so sure the financial fair play is an attack on England by Platini though. If anything it strengthens the position because with the huge TV deal, 2nd highest attendances in Europe and a near domination of the global merchandise market English clubs, the Spanish 2, German 1, and Italian 3 are in a very strong position. To me this is effectively closing the door on who can compete at the top level as it comes at a time when England are doing better than ever (in the present format of Champion's League)

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