Skip to main content

Waiting For UEFA



Yesterday, Elliott’s legal team met to discuss Milan’s UEFA sanctions ahead of a meeting with UEFA on Friday. It’s impossible to know what to expect from that meeting, since UEFA have been treating Milan very differently than comparable teams with comparable financial and management issues. But after they sent a warning letter to Milan about the purchase of Paqueta, it seems that our mercato is being held hostage yet again, as we are waiting for UEFA.

Held hostage by a power-obsessed UEFA

Our current sanctions are reported on FFP violations from 2014-17. As I wrote in May of 2014, in “Financial Faux Pas,” we certainly saw this coming. But what we didn’t see coming was the lack of fair play from UEFA. Last May, in “Financial Foul Play,” I discussed how UEFA denied Milan’s new ownership both voluntary and settlement agreements. To be fair, UEFA were right to be wary of the Yonghong Li ownership. However, their precedents gave those agreements to other ownerships, including other ownerships with poor business plans.

For example, in “Inter vs. AC Milan: The FFP Derby,” I outlined the disparity in sanctions and agreements between two clubs from the same city.  Not only were Inter offered a settlement agreement in 2015 after a change in ownership, they are in year four of sanctions for that three year agreement. They have yet to make the criteria for their agreement even one single year, but have not even been threatened with a ban, let alone sanctioned with one.

Milan are being punished for the past... and also uncertainties

Speaking of bans, Milan’s ban was handed down to them in June from UEFA, as outlined in “Judgment Day.” This judgment is said to have come as a result of the 2014-17 failures to meet break even requirements, but UEFA said it was based on “uncertainties.” So while UEFA’s FFP scope is meant to punish for past offenses, and indeed this was specific to the 2014-17 balance sheets, they literally confessed the ban was being handed down for future uncertainties. Yet, those who committed the original crimes, Berlusconi and Galliani, were allowed to purchase Monza with no repercussions from UEFA at all.

It begs the question as to what UEFA are policing: are they policing past financial follies and managements, or are they punishing new and future ownerships and events? FFP was designed to keep clubs from going bankrupt. But UEFA has gotten ahead of themselves with the discipline. While their agreements are meant to be a plan going forward to get financially foolhardy clubs back on track, their ban on Milan offered no such plan, only a punishment that was ascribed to one ownership, given to another, and applied to yet another, with no plan for the future.

They say they care about football, but it doesn't seem that way

Milan spent the summer appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). This also meant that after the takeover of Elliott Management, Milan also had to postpone their mercato activities, lest they should incur more wrath from UEFA. And the CAS overturned the ban, eventually citing the financial stability the new ownership offered. The irony there being that UEFA did not like the Yonghong Li management because they were concerned about Milan falling into the hands of a hedge fund. Was that just because they knew that Elliott Management had better lawyers and would get the CAS to curb UEFA’s totalitarian ways?

The CAS acknowledged that Milan had issues with the break even requirement, and referred us back to the disciplinary committee of UEFA for a more “fair” punishment. By then we had like two weeks left in the mercato, so newly appointed Leonardo and Maldini did what they could to improve the squad. Finally, in December, the day after Milan crashed out of the Europa League and just two weeks before the mercato opened, UEFA handed down the new sanctions: a €12m fine payable from Milan’s Europa League earnings this season; a limit on players in Europe for the next two seasons, and only 2.5 years to meet the break even requirement, or the ban would be imposed.

The new guy knows how to balance a balance sheet

Not only are these sanctions far more harsh than comparable clubs in comparable situations, but they failed yet again to offer the new ownership a voluntary or settlement agreement. While I understand that the management of Milan has been poor for at least the past ten years, and they want to put the fear into other clubs not to do similar things, their sanctions fail to meet their own purpose: of helping clubs play fair financially. For one, they are heaping on punishments to a new owner for things that were done literally three ownerships ago. And this ownership, surprisingly, has the most chance at bringing Milan’s budget into balance. But the “goals” within the sanctions are almost impossible to achieve, especially with a new management taking on years of mismanagement.

Furthermore, Leonardo recently admitted that he received a warning letter about the purchase of Paqueta, stating this was not the type of purchase that they approved of based on our financial situation. Which is really out of their scope of governance. Way out of their scope of governance. And it begs the question: have they lost sight of what it is that they are supposed to be doing?

Milan's unlikely hero and possibly UEFA's worst nightmare

I assume that Elliott Management will present all of these arguments and more on Friday, and potentially once again to the CAS if necessary. But until then, we are in week two of the January transfer market and once again held hostage by UEFA’s unfair and late rulings. I mean it’s 2019, and they’re still arguing about what our punishments should be from 2014. And despite the fact that they have no jurisdiction over our transfer market, other than to impose a financial ban on transfers, it seems that we are stuck yet again. Still waiting for UEFA.


This post inspired by the music of The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting For You”


Our next match is
Coppa Italia Round of 16
Sampdoria vs. Milan
Saturday, January 12 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)