The Football League has confirmed Blackburn Rovers has failed to meet the ‘fair play’ requirement under its Financial Fair Play rules and is now under ‘an embargo’ for the remainder of the season.
The penalty – which restricts the club’s ability to operate freely in the transfer market – has been anticipated, but is still a huge disappointment to fans at Ewood Park, says The Rovers Trust, the official supporters trust for Blackburn Rovers.
With almost half the season gone, Rovers are hovering around the play offs and the general feeling among supporters is that the team is performing better than in recent seasons.
However, the January transfer window will see the club forced to operate with one hand tied behind its back and will be powerless to prevent its best players from leaving.
Finding adequate replacements will also prove tough for manager Gary Bowyer and his team because of the Financial Fair Play sanctions.
Although the embargo is just for the remainder of the current season, it could get even worse, the Rovers Trust believes, since the dire state of the club’s finances means it will almost certainly be punished again in the summer.
Dan Grabko, the finance officer for the Rovers Trust, says: “Basically, the embargo means the club cannot bring in a more expensive player than the one leaving.
““I was hoping that the appeals process Rovers were part of would be successful in reversing or at least delaying the sanctions, but this does not appear to be the case.
“While we hope the squad is good enough to challenge for promotion this season, we can’t be certain who will be there come February 1.
“If we keep our best players it’s possible the management can use the sanctions as a rallying call to galvanise and focus the squad through the rest of the season.
“However, it’s our view that the club has next to no chance of conforming to FFP by the summer either; the losses are of an order of magnitude greater than the limits set for this season.
“To get back to equilibrium in the Championship is going to require a complete turnover of the entire squad and that could take another two seasons or more.
“If promotion to the Premier League is not achieved, then I feel we supporters are in for a rough ride.
“Even setting aside the role of the owners or their possible reaction and commitment levels to the deteriorating situation the club has found itself in, it will be hard to hold on to our best players.
“It will be extremely tough to return to the financial stability and excellent stewardship of Blackburn Rovers that characterised the club under the previous ownership.
“Player wages have become the entire focus of professional football in England as a business, both their ever-increasing level and the race to be able to pay them.
“Trying to lower them without a very intelligent plan and clever management team both on and off the pitch, working in close collaboration, will almost always end in disaster both on the field and off.”
The Football League issued the following statement on FFP this week:
An initial analysis of Financial Fair Play submissions from the current 24 Championship clubs has indicated that three clubs – Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest – have failed to meet the Fair Play Requirement under the division’s Financial Fair Play rules.
Consequently, all three will be subject to an ‘FFP embargo’ under Football League regulations from January 1, 2015 for the remainder of the current campaign.
The Football League is currently in discussions with a number of other clubs over their FFP submissions and will confirm any further FFP embargoes, if any, in due course.
It will also now consider submissions from the three clubs promoted to the Premier League and the three clubs relegated to League 1 at the end of the 2013/14 season.
Blackburn, Leeds and Forest all exceeded the maximum permitted deviation of £8m – consisting of a maximum adjusted operating loss of £3m plus a further maximum of £5m of shareholder investment – during the 2013/14 playing season.
Each club will have the opportunity to have its FFP embargo lifted at the end of the season by demonstrating that it has stayed within the maximum permitted deviation of £6m (£3m operating loss plus £3m shareholder investment) for the 2014/15 season.
The Football League has also confirmed the way in which FFP embargoes will operate for clubs placed under this sanction.
Clubs will be prohibited from registering any new professional players (permanent contract or loan) unless they have:
• 24 or fewer established players (players aged 21 or over that have made at least 5 starting appearances for the club)
Where clubs have fewer than 24 established players, they will only be permitted to sign players in the following circumstances (with the player in question being added to the club’s list of established players regardless of his age or previous playing experience):
• Where the employee costs of a player being signed are less than £600,000 per annum (or pro-rata if signed on a shorter contract)
Where clubs have 24 established players, they will be permitted to trade on a ‘one out, one in’ basis but only if the employee costs of the player coming in to the club are no more than whichever is the lower amount of:
• 75% of the equivalent costs of the player going out
• Or a maximum of £600,000 per annum (or pro-rata if signed on shorter contract)
• Clubs under an FFP embargo will be permitted to sign a goalkeeper on an emergency basis (in line with existing regulations)
• Clubs under an FFP embargo will not be permitted to pay transfer fees or compensation fees for professional players
• Clubs under an FFP embargo will not be permitted to pay a loan fee to another club, they may only pay the player’s wage (or a contribution towards it)
• For incoming players, clubs can only pay Agents’ Fees as a benefit in kind to the player in question (as long as they do not exceed the £600,000 employee costs limit)