Sefton Perry - UEFA Benchmarking Manager

Question: If someone absolutely unaware of the club licensing ask you about it, what would you answer? How would you comment on the question?
Answer: Well, I get asked that question a lot. It’s not very easy to summarize for sure. (Laughing) I would say just about increasing basic minimum of facts, so ensuring that minimum levels of professionalism are adopted by the clubs. When we say “professionalism”, it doesn’t mean necessarily that everything should be full-time professionally paid, but I think just the way it has been operated, has been run, run well. When you run your own family, you make sure that all money comes in, all money goes out, and everything is well run, well organized. The same is about the clubs.

Question: What’s your general vision of the future of the club licensing system? Will new criteria be implemented, e.g. futsal or women’s football?
Answer: Well. First of all, I think that Version 2 of UEFA Manual (Version 3 of Armenian Manual) should just be made sure that it is implemented correctly for a couple of years, especially through the smaller clubs, having new criteria being introduced well. I think that on a national level the association should include anything which will help to improve the game. On a UEFA licensing level we would be not strongly in favor of totally new criteria being implemented. Sometimes you can require like having 5 youth teams instead of 4 like in Armenia, but totally new criteria within UEFA license will just confuse them. And it will also be to certain extent unfair towards your clubs not to take part in UEFA club competitions because they didn’t meet the requirement that any of the other clubs in UEFA club competitions also didn’t meet, but they competed. I think that it’s better having 2 different licenses national and UEFA.

Question: UEFA have recently issued a new document concerning its club licensing system, this time – UEFA Club Licensing Regulations. What is its goal? What’s the difference between this Regulations and previous Manuals? What was the essential reason for transforming the “Manual” into “Regulations”?
Answer: It practiced what is changed. The only criterion that was changed is the operating, operational quality, the racial practice criteria from the best practice to the required. What we tried to do is make things clearer. So, now it’s now relatively thick 68-page document that just includes the rules for the clubs and the core process. Now, in the future we’ll probably also be developing and we are developing descriptions of the Manual for the associations (like in old Manual), also commentary on the Regulations, but we wanted to make it simpler. Also it came a lot easier for, let’s say, the disciplinary bodies, because now they don’t have to wait for 2-3 stages, so it’s a lot easier. It is also incorporates with Clarification Memos that we issued over the last 2 or 3 years, so just hopes form our side to make it just a bit easier. The original Manual had messages for the licensor, requirement for clubs. For example, in relation to 3-year rule (the club as legal entity must be its NA’s member at least for a period of 3 years).

Question: In relation to the 3-year rule… We have some clubs in Armenia, which are de-facto bankrupts, but they still exist as a legal entity. If a new sponsor will decide to recover such club and in the 1st or 2nd season it’ll qualify into UEFA club competitions, will UEFA allow such club to participate in UEFA club competitions or it’ll be considered as “3-year rule” breach?
Answer: We would definitely substance and first of all the licensor (the association) must inform us of all the details for us to have all important information. Then we’ll accept the substance of the matter. When the club that came, let’s say, normal is run away from any debts, perhaps tax authorities, suppliers, then it would fell the 3-year tense. But if we’ll see it kept legal, and in the end we’ll see the rights and obligations of the company, in that case we’ll encourage you to take over an old club rather than create a new one. So in that case this 3-year rule minimum will actually be still there, but it comes like it still meets the 3-year rule.

Question: The question, which bothers Armenian clubs most of all. What was the reason for UEFA’s decision to apply International Standards of Auditing (ISA) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) instead of the national ones? Is it possible to grant some liberties to small associations like Armenian, which do not have a wide scope of activities like, for example, England and Spain?
Answer: So first of all, two things – the International Standard Auditing and the International Financial Reporting Standard.
The main thing is that our requirement on International Standard Reporting was that we wanted clubs to be able to report on the national financial reporting standards. So, in many countries they do. They don’t report on the international standards. When we drafted the original Armenian Manual, we included the potential to report on the national financial reporting standard. Unfortunately, the development of the financial reporting standards in Armenia wasn’t quite quick enough for the introduction of the latest version of club licensing. In this case we had to make a decision that, unfortunately, it’s necessary to have IFRS. It’s not to say that in a future, if national financial reporting standards are further increased and improved that we wouldn’t allow Armenian clubs to go back to the national standards.
Anyway, Armenian clubs are not alone in this. Only about 116 out of 630 clubs that did licensing in Europe in last year had large income that would be considered income over 5 mln. €. So, Armenian clubs have no difference with those of Wales, Northern Ireland, Faeroe Islands. It’s difficult and we realize that it costs money; at least they are in certain accounts that can help. Unfortunately, it’s the minimum level we need to have, because the financial statement is the basic of the whole financial criteria. It’s something we have push down in the end.

Question: You are responsible for benchmarking within the UEFA Licensing Unit. What is its essence? What are the aims of benchmarking?
Answer: Yes, one of my charges is benchmarking. Benchmarking is stated as one of the official objectives of the club licensing system. The idea is to increase visibility in football around Europe: in the way football runs, in the structure of football, in the finances of football, in the ownership of football, because the only information you can find on football across the Europe for the moment is attendances, results, league papers but no real other information even in big countries. So, the idea is through licensing to use the information that is provided to increase knowledge of football and it also hopefully allows the NAs to help its clubs to come more aware of where they are; e.g. understand of clubs form different countries. .

Question: Now let’s speak about English football.
Answer: OK

Question: Can you evaluate current premier league of England?
Answer: Very close because at the bottom and the top is very close this year. Obviously, the team with the most money Manchester United is at the top. They have the most players with more that 30 million Euros in Europe and their manager is being there for a long time, but this year Liverpool seems to be very close to them, chasing them very closely. Liverpool, without its main player Fernando Torres who’s hopefully there from half of the season. Now he’s back and it could be an interesting title race between MU and Liverpool, but it would be nice to have a change, i.e. Liverpool to win.

Question: What’s your favorite team and why?
Answer: Well, obviously, I’m very neutral, but I like the team that plays in red on West from Manchester. (laughing)… I always was Liverpool fan. I like the team spirit. I like what the club stands for, hard working players, no stars, team. The team is more important than individual players.

Question: What are the reasons and consequences of England’s fail to participate in EURO-2008?
Answer: The main reason is that standards of European football are going up so much in the quality of the coaching, in the finding of the stars, in stability. Even in smallest countries it’s so much higher than it was. So there are no more easy games. In the end, England was in the same group with Croatia and Russia, who were among the best teams of Europe. Croatia beat the finalist, Germany, and Russia beat lots of teams. So, it was just a bit unlucky the group So, it’s a European sporting model democracy – whoever is beating us qualifies.

Question: The one can say that Steve McLaren was one of the reasons for that?
Answer: First of all he’s doing very well now. He is respected in the Dutch League. His team is the 2nd by now. But I think that a certain pressure come from the English FA is the wealthiest association. So, the pressure is huge.

Question: Do you think that they are better now with Fabio Capello?
Answer: May be it’s an easier group, but certainly their results so far have been very good.

Question: Why do you like football?
Answer: I like other sports as well, but No1 is football. My mom and dad like football, and I always enjoyed playing and watching it. It’s such a simple game. You can be thin, you can be tall and play football. Peter Crouch and Diego Maradona (laughing). So, anyone can play football. Football is No 1 for me because it has deepest link into the cultures of the countries.

Armenian Development Bank Hummel