In the spirit of the new year here is a look forward at four events that are sure to produce the biggest waves for the business of soccer in 2015.
THE Third Party Ownership FALLOUT
The FIFA ExCo has taken the principle decision that third-party ownership (TPO) shall be banned with a transitional period.
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) September 26, 2014
Last September, FIFA released a statement announcing its decision to ban third-party ownership, a practice in which entities other than clubs are able to control the registration of players. At the time it was just a warning with no time frame, but in December FIFA dropped a mini-bomb by setting a deadline of May 2015 for the practice. This came as a shock to . While all existing TPO agreements will be honored until expiration and new contracts formed between now and May are capped at a one year duration.
FIFA’s decision (a correct one in my opinion) has created a horizon whereby investors will be forced to sell in order to realize the value of their agreements before expiry. Previously the only timeframe was the end of a player’s career due to age or injury, as it was extremely unlikely a player would not renew the relationship with the investor.
The exit of investor money should have a significant impact on transfer prices, particularly for players from markets like South America and Portugal where TPO is more common. Whether that shock is seen as early as this summer’s window remains to be seen but there could be some interesting action in the windows ahead.
A NEW FUTURE FOR FIFA?
Sepp Blatter is coming up for re-election this year in what would be his fifth term as the President of FIFA. Blatter was re-elected in 2011 after his only opponent, Mohamed Bin Hammam, then President of the Asian Football Federation, withdrew due to bribery allegations.
The past four years have seen FIFA rocked by allegations of corruption in the World Cup bid process, vote buying in internal elections and the general misconduct of federation chiefs, including bribery and intimidation, in governing their respective territories. All have contributed to a growing public awareness of an institution holding unprecedented control over a multi-billion dollar sport and business with little accompanying accountability or transparency.
John Oliver summed it up best this past summer:
Clearly there are big questions over Blatter’s ability (or willingness) to bring change to FIFA. This doubt was most recently piqued by the resignation of independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia after an alleged attempt to misrepresent the results of his inquiry.
January 29th is the deadline for FIFA members to declare their candidacy; currently the only rumored challenger is Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. May 29th is the election date, it’s worth marking down to see what direction FIFA chooses to head in.
FULL FORCE Financial Fair Play
UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations will have been in force for 3 years at the end of the 2014-15 season. Although 2011-12 was the first year of FFP regulations, 2014-15 marks the first three year period in which the rules have been fully in effect without exception and at the lowest level of permitted deficit.
The 2014-15 season then becomes an extremely important gauge for FFP as it should reflect an overall lower level of spending as clubs acclimate to the new regulations.
The coming year will also be a test of FFP’s enforcement mechanisms and whether they represent credible threats to the clubs. Last year UEFA handed out sanctions for failing the break-even rule, most notably to Manchester City and Paris St-Germain. The punishments came in the form of caps on wage increases, transfer spending and squad limits for European competition but fell short of the stringent competition bans desired by some.
Whether these penalties are a true deterrent or merely a luxury tax on clubs with luxury to spare remains to be seen.
HELLO, IT’S INTERNET.
Our final issue takes a step away from governance, regulation and transfer issues and squarely into the business of soccer, specifically the broadcast world. ESPN has just announced a streaming service available for a monthly fee and independent of any cable relationship. Although long anticipated, the launch marks the beginning of streaming as a widespread viable stand-alone alternative to traditional broadcast and cable distribution.
Up till now soccer streaming services have been unimpressive suffering from either limited content (“Oh boy, the Polish Ekstraklasa…”), poor technical performance, little freedom from traditional contracts or just be plainly illegal. The supporter with a computer or mobile had few options to choose from.
While this doesn’t spell the end of traditional distribution channels it is the beginning of a shift for established soccer markets and a drastically new way to reach fans in developing ones.
Do you agree? Did I miss something important? Did I get things totally right? Totally wrong? Tweet at @thesoccerceo