UEFA has defended its financial fair play rules after a claim by one of Europe's most eminent football lawyers that the governing body would be unlikely to win a legal challenge.
Jean-Louis Dupont, who was part of the legal team that won the Bosman ruling and who led the case that forced FIFA and UEFA to compensate clubs for players on international duty, claims financial fair play (FFP) will breach European competition law. Dupont admits the European Commission has agreed to FFP but says the European Court of Justice may take a different view.
UEFA insists, however, that FFP will stimulate competition. A UEFA spokesman said: "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."
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, writing a column in the Wall Street Journal, 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 multibillion-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."
Dupont argues that UEFA could improve the financial balance of football by imposing a "luxury tax" on high-spending clubs but believes that would be blocked by the big clubs with the most political clout.