For the 2000-2001 season, the four semifinalists for the UEFA Champions League were perennial contenders Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, defending runners-up Valencia CF from La Liga, and an English club named Leeds United. It wasn’t well-known at the time but following failure to qualify for the Champion’s League the following two seasons (which deprived the club of the riches of Champion’s League profits which are divided among qualifying clubs) the club, which had built their contending squad with the help of incurring huge debts financially imploded at which point news of their shoddy financial management became known to all of football. The resulting internal financial chaos resulted in the term “Doing a Leeds” being added to football lexicon and saw a regular title contending club in Leeds drop to the second division after the 2003-2004 season and then for the first time in their history falling all the way down to the third division from 2007 to 2010. The story of Leeds, as well as insane debt build up by mainly English and Spanish clubs, led to the adoption of Financial Fair Play (FFP) by UEFA in the early 2010s. If FFP had been in place earlier, Leeds may not have been able to spend their way into the Champions League, but they would possibly still be in the middle of the Premiership instead of fighting it out for promotion back to the top flight.
According to the official UEFA website, FFP is designed to prevent clubs from spending more than they earn, ensure that in any given year they pay their bills on debts, and was not intended to make sure smaller clubs could compete with larger clubs which presumably have bigger wallets but the flaws of FFP are best discussed another piece. The reason that FFP matters right now is the historic Neymar transfer which UEFA must do their due diligence concerning (even if they find irregularities they will allow the move to go through). I am not suggesting that like Leeds United, Paris Saint-Germain is built on wobbly loans but given that they just more than doubled the world record transfer fee they must ask for PSG’s financial records. For their part, the French club seems to be very willing to share their records with UEFA. This will be of little consolation to Barcelona fans, bitter about losing one of their best attackers, and it will do little but frustrate fans of small teams who could only dream that their team could make a transfer ninety percent smaller than the 222 million Euro fee paid for Neymar but none of this is being done for comedy or window dressing.