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Manchester United and Newcastle United declared FFP positions – Funny how differently they are reported

4 weeks ago
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Interesting to compare and contrast the media coverage of Newcastle United and Manchester United when it comes to FFP (Financial Fair Play), or PSR (Profit and Sustainability Rules) as they are now referring to the Premier League restrictions.

Now you ‘might’ have heard the odd mention regarding FFP with relation to Newcastle United recently.

Especially so since the latest NUFC accounts (for the 2022/23 season) were released earlier this month.

Newcastle United CEO Darren Eales gave a group interview to journalists following the accounts release, where FFP made all the headlines. Then at his next press conference for the match that followed, Eddie Howe was also quizzed about the accounts and FFP impact on the recruitment situation.

I think Darren Eales was a little over the top with his comments, keen to get the message out there of what a great job he and the owners were doing in difficult circumstances ( especially due to FFP restrictions) and indeed getting it out there as to whether these FFP rules in the Premier League were fit for purpose. Eales saying about Newcastle United potentially selling players in order to be able to strengthen, especially when depending on a particular player’s situation with contract and so on, it could mean you sell a player for one amount and then with amortisation etc, you could then buy players for up to five times that amount, with the buying price spread / amortised over up to five years in the accounts.

Whilst Eales talked of any player could potentially be sold (which is the case in reality at any club if the offer is large enough), Eddie Howe was more specific. He made clear that the club weren’t talking necessarily about selling star players, indicating instead that the reality was the aim to be selling squad players potentially, in order to free up cash and just as (more?) importantly, far more FFP flexibility.

This has already been the case these last two transfer windows, as in January 2023 Newcastle United only brought in Anthony Gordon because the Shelvey sale and Wood loan gave them the FFP stretch to do so, then the sales of Wood and ASM in the summer, gave the FFP possibility of bringing in Tonali, Barnes, Livramento, Minteh and Hall (on initial loan).

Man City sold Cole Palmer to give them extra FFP stretch, Chelsea have sold countless (mainly younger) players to do the same, as have most other top clubs. Player trading especially important now FFP plays such a part, Tottenham’s sale of Harry Kane then ended up giving them a lot more purchasing power and FFP potential.

Manchester United Fans Painted Red

IMAGO/Sportimage

Anyway, what about Manchester United?

What about Manchester United in particular compared to Newcastle United, when it comes to how the media have covered their issues with FFP in particular?

Well, a few weeks before those Newcastle United accounts were released and Darren Eales and Eddie Howe said what they did…

This was reported on Manchester United in an article on The Athletic last month, including some very interesting / pertinent comments from Manchester United football director John Murtough….

The Athletic report – 19 December 2023:

Manchester United football director John Murtough has told supporters not to expect a busy January transfer window as the Old Trafford club attempts to remain compliant with Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

United have endured a difficult season so far, with pressure mounting upon manager Erik ten Hag following an inconsistent start in the Premier League and elimination from the Champions League at the group stages.

Difficulties on the pitch have played out against the backdrop of uncertainty off it, with the strategic review ongoing and a 25 per cent minority investment by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS yet to be announced.

Supporters hoping for reinforcements in the January transfer market are set to be disappointed, however, with football director Murtough telling the United fans’ forum on 13 December not to expect any major business.

“Looking ahead to the January transfer window, we are not expecting it to be particularly busy,” he told the forum in pre-prepared comments shared on his behalf.

“There will always be the possibility of deals around the edges of the squad, particularly in terms of finding opportunities for players who are not playing as much football as they would like.

“However, we’ve always been consistent in saying that we do not see January as the optimal time to do business and our recruitment strategy remains focused on summer windows.”

Murtough added any potential transfer spending will need to be in line with strict FFP regulations and insisted that United will remain compliant on that front.

United were fined €300,000 (£259,000; $329,000) by UEFA in July for what the Old Trafford club described as a “minor technical breach” of spending regulations, while Everton were deducted 10 points by the Premier League for breaching profitability and sustainability rules (PSR).

After registering a combined pre-tax loss of more than £180m ($229m) over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, United are under pressure to adhere to the Premier League’s rules.

PSR allows clubs to lose up to £105million ($133m) over three three-year period, of which £90m ($114m) must be covered by ownership funding.

“We’ve seen this season that financial fair play (FFP) rules have real teeth, so we have to be very careful to ensure that we remain compliant, and we will,” Murtough added.

“But that means being really disciplined on spending going forward, with a balance between incomings and outgoings.”

Manchester United have bought nobody at all this month and yet apart from this Athletic report over five weeks ago, I can’t remember anything else in the media. Nothing about how FFP means it is impossible for major signings this month for Manchester United (nor many other clubs!), unless they sell one or more current players and free up FFP flexibility.

A ‘little’ different to the hysterical levels of coverage regarding Newcastle United and FFP.

Last January, Newcastle United and Manchester United were both battling for spots in the top four and Champions League qualification.

A chance came up for Newcastle United to buy Anthony Gordon, rather than waiting and trying in the summer, so NUFC sold Shelvey and loaned out Wood to create that FFP flexibility that would allow Gordon to come in during January 2023.

Manchester United in a very similar position with FFP not allowing any major purchase, they didn’t sell anybody and were forced instead to look for loans, bringing in striker Wout Weghorst and midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, not one player bought.

This past summer, just as Newcastle United did when spending pretty much up to their FFP limits, Manchester United the same, making three major permanent signings in Mason Mount, Andre Onana and Rasmus Hojlund for reported combined fees of £163m (potentially rising to £180m in add-ons. Whilst Jonny Evans signed as a free agent and loan deals for Sofyan Amrabat and Sergio Reguilon (as FFP restricted further buys…).

So as you see, when it comes to FFP, Newcastle United and Manchester United, two clubs with very similar (FFP) issues, however, very different ways for the media when it comes to how they cover the two clubs.

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