The implementation of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules back in 2009 drastically changed the landscape when it came to spending in European football.
Prior to the rules, the game was littered with high-profile examples of clubs spending lavishly after a takeover in order to secure silverware — most famously with Chelsea going on a winning spree after seeing a huge cash injection from Roman Abramovich.
Nowadays, things are a little more difficult, with clubs having to carefully balance the books more to avoid running foul of Uefa’s laws. Right now, the likes of Manchester City and Everton are being heavily scrutinised for their spending habits, while most recently, European Goliaths Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus and Chelsea have all been handed sanctions in one way or another (we’ll get to them later).
With that in mind, let’s take a look back at the fines and sanctions handed out to clubs playing in Europe’s top seven leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France and Portugal) to see what happened next to the respective clubs.
Punishment(s): Fined €300,000 and handed a one-season ban from European competition.
The 2012/13 season proved to be a historic one for Málaga as they made their Champions League debut. Under the leadership of Manuel Pellegrini, they made an impressive quarter-final run only losing to Borussia Dortmund in controversial fashion, but those days are now behind them. Málaga finished sixth in that season La Liga and five years later they would suffer the ignominy of relegation. Last season, Los Albicelestes finished third from bottom in the Segunda Division, confirming relegation and a first experience of third-tier football since 1998.
Year(s): 2014, 2022
Punishment(s): Fined €60m in 2014, of which €40m was suspended. Their squad for Uefa competitions was reduced to 21 players, on top of transfer spending restrictions and two-year squad salary restrictions. Fined €10m in 2022 for €10m which could rise to €65m if they fail to comply with the settlement reached with Uefa for the next three years.
It comes as no surprise given PSG’s massive expenditures they’ve run foul of Uefa and its Financial Fair Play regulations. However, it hasn’t inhibited them, as they would go on to win Ligue 1 in 2015 as well as reaching the Champions League quarter-finals. Six more league titles have followed and one appearance in the Champions League final, though the big-eared trophy remains elusive.
Punishment(s): Fined €60m, of which €40m was suspended. Their squad for UEFA competitions was reduced to 21 players, and transfer spending restrictions and two-year squad salary restrictions were imposed.
Much like the Parisian powerhouse, Manchester City are showing no signs of waning, in fact, they’ve just completed one of English football’s greatest seasons. But there were reports following their Champions League triumph no Premier League club offered a congratulatory message and that’s because City are currently under investigation for breach of Financial Fair Play regulations.
A statement released by the Premier League earlier this year documented that City broke over 100 financial fair play laws since 2009. This included laws surrounding reported player salaries and other revenue and expenditure figures. It remains to be seen when this investigation is included but City continue to plead their innocence.
Year(s): 2019, 2022
Punishment(s): Banned from European competitions in 2019 for a year. Fined €15m in 2022, with €2m being demanded upfront.
Following their breach of Financial Fair Play regulations, which Milan appealed, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled their ban from participating in any of UEFA’s European club competitions in 2019/20 would be upheld. UEFA initially penalised the Rossoneri for failing to comply with spending regulations in the period between 2015 and 2018.
Milan had finished fifth in Serie A the previous season and were replaced by sixth-placed Roma, who directly went into the group stages of the Europa League. In the preceding three years, Milan have reached the Europa League round of 16 (2020/21) and Champions League semi-finals (2022/23). In 2023, Uefa announced Milan had met their Financial Fair Play obligations for the 2022/23 financial year, with the Italian club subsequently paying €2m of a €15m fine while agreeing a four-year settlement agreement.
Punishment(s): Fined €35m, though a fee of €5m must be paid upfront before Uefa will judge whether they must pay the rest dependent on their compliance.
Less than one year after handing Roma their fine, Uefa gave positive news to last season’s Europa League finalists. Europe’s governing body announced the Giallorossi had fully complied with the break-even requirements set for the financial year 2022, thus avoiding further potential fines or competition bans.
Punishment(s): Fined €26m, with €4m demanded upfront.
Last month Uefa confirmed that Inter Milan were compliant with FFP regulations based on their most recent assessment. The organisation had issued a €26m fine due to previous breaches. However, in September 2022, the Nerazzurri agreed to a settlement with Uefa which reduced the amount of the fine to €4m. In addition, it also gave the Italian giants slightly different terms to comply with in terms of FFP rules.
Year(s): 2022, 2023
Punishment(s): Fined €23m in 2022 with €3.5m being paid as the unconditional amount. Handed a one-year ban from European competitions in 2023 and fined €20m with €10m being paid upfront.
A settlement with Uefa saw the Old Lady’s original €23m sanction reduced to €3.5m, however, Europe’s governing body would ban Juventus from competing in the 2023/24 Europa Conference League season — which goes to Fiorentina in the play-offs round starting on August 24 — due to financial irregularities.
Juve have also been fined €20m, though half of that fine has been suspended, and Italy’s former undisputed champions will only have to pay if their financial records for the next three years do not comply with the accounting requirements.
Punishment(s): Fined €2m, with €300,000 to be paid upfront.
Monaco will need to get back in compliance with FFP regulations, but no penalties will be put in place at least until the 2025/2026 season. However, they are still required to balance their books to avoid further sanctions.
Year(s): 2019, 2022
Punishment(s): Fined €3m for breach of a settlement with squad size for European tournaments restricted. Fined €2m, with €300,000 to be paid upfront.
Just like their Ligue 1 rivals, Monaco, the Olympians will need to get back in compliance with FFP regulations, but no penalties will be put in place at least until the 2025/2026 season. Marseille, however, are still required to balance their books to avoid further sanctions.
Punishment(s): Handed a €250,000 fine.
Punishment(s): Handed a €250,000 fine and banned from European competitions unless they can prove by January 31, 2022, a debt with another club which was due to be paid on January 15 had been settled.
Sporting had the threat of a one-season European ban for unpaid debts ultimately lifted by Uefa.
Punishment(s): Handed a €300,000 fine.
Much like Sporting, the Dragons met their deadline to settle “overdue payables” or be excluded from European competitions, the cases were handled by a Uefa-appointed financial monitoring panel which oversees revenue and spending by clubs which qualify to play in their competitions.
Punishment(s): Handed a €300,000 fine by Uefa for committing financial fair play breaches over a four-year period between 2019 and 2022.
Man Utd are understood to be disappointed with Uefa’s lack of flexibility over accounting for losses during Covid-impacted seasons but accept they did commit the breach. It’s also understood the situation will have no impact on the club’s ability to strengthen Erik ten Hag’s squad this summer.
Punishment(s): Handed a €500,000 fine by Uefa for reporting profits of an asset which was not a relevant income under the regulations.
Barça were handed a €500,000 sanction “for wrongly reporting, in the financial year 2022, profits on disposal of intangible assets (other than player transfers) which are not a relevant income under the regulations,” a Uefa statement read. Xavi’s men were crowned Spanish champions last season, ending a four-year title drought, and will be looking to win a first Champions League since 2015 next term.
Punishment(s): Handed a €10m fine by Uefa for “submitting incomplete financial information” during the Roman Abramovich era.
The penalty represents another blow for Chelsea’s current owners — led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital — following a disappointing first year at the helm, with a 12th-place finish in the Premier League last season their worst since 1993/94. Chelsea have outlaid around £600m in transfers since Boehly’s arrival, while former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been tasked with turning around their on-field performances.