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UEFA has moved to defend its financial fair play (FFP) regulations after eminent football lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, claimed they would be unlikely to survive a challenge to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

UEFA has moved to defend its financial fair play (FFP) regulations after eminent football lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, claimed they would be unlikely to survive a challenge to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Dupont, who previously helped Jean-Marc Bosman win his landmark freedom of contract case in 1995, believes that FFP breaches European competition law stating that while the rules have received European Commission (EC) approval they may be treated differently by the ECJ. The Belgian lawyer, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that UEFA could improve the financial balance of football by imposing a ‘luxury tax’ on high-spending clubs. An EC report last month called on the introduction of such a tax in a bid to regulate transfer spending and introduce more equality in European football.

However, UEFA believes that FFP will ultimately serve to encourage, rather than hinder, competition in the European game. “UEFA is aware that there are large differences between the comparative wealth of different clubs and countries, but financial fair play does not have financial equality as its objective,” said a UEFA spokesman, according to the Press Association. The spokesman added: “However, more investors should be attracted if club football is more sustainable and those clubs with sustainable and stable business models will be in a position to become more competitive.”

Dupont said: “Some of Europe’s biggest clubs are, unsurprisingly, the loudest supporters of rules that entrench their dominance. The time is right for a strong reminder from the EU’s anti-trust authorities that football, like any other multi-billion-euro industry, must comply with the law. As an agreement whereby industry participants jointly decide to limit investments, FFP likely constitutes collusion and hence a violation of EU competition law. FFP may also infringe other EU freedoms such as the free movement of workers and services. Even if FFP were sufficiently legitimate and necessary to justify its distortions of EU principles, however, it would still have to clear a final hurdle: proportionality. UEFA would need to convince the EU’s judges in Luxembourg that FFP is the least restrictive means of achieving its aims. This seems unlikely.”

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