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AC Milan’s FFP violations could open Europa door for Fiorentina

There’s a sliver of a chance that Milan’s financial indiscretions could see the Viola back into Europe, but we don’t think it’s likely.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A
This is probably DDV’s face right now.
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

When news broke earlier this week that AC Milan had run afoul of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, nobody was that surprised. After all, you can’t expect a team that spent nearly €200 million in the summer (to say nothing of the €45 million they’re already on the hook for over the next 2 years) to fall in line with FFP. Initially, it looked as if the Rossoneri would be pinged and maybe lose a transfer window or something, sort of like Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, but further investigation has shown that Milan’s violations run deeper, to the point that owner Li Yonghong owes a cool €350 million to investment fund Elliott Management and has to pay by October; if he can’t pay, Elliott will either take over the club or force a sale.

There seems to be substantial doubt amongst UEFA officials that Li will be able to pay off his debts (there are a few other ones in there as well, but none so massive as the Elliott one); they rejected a proposal from the embattled outfit to restructure its debt last December and Milan haven’t submitted a new proposal since, leading to the current situation. UEFA’s Club Football Control Board (CFCB), which oversees FFP violations, is expected to rule on the situation in the next few weeks. If they decide that Milan haven’t demonstrated that the club’s finances are solid and sustainable, the CFCB could impose any one of several penalties on the club: a transfer ban, docking a few roster spots, a ban on European competition, or some combination of the three.

Here’s where it gets interesting for Fiorentina. As the 8th-place team in Serie A, the Viola just missed qualifying for the Europa League. If the CFCB bans Milan from Europe, though, Atalanta would, in the eyes of the Europa operators, take over 6th place and a spot in the group stages, while the Viola would rise to 7th and would be involved in the playoff.

Not surprisingly, Milan have lashed out at the prospect of missing Europe and the extra millions it would bring, with club boss Marco Fassone unloading on the CFCB with both barrels. Given the high profile of the club and the potential loss of revenue from losing such a famous entrant into the Europa League, it seems unlikely that a European ban will be the punishment that UEFA hands down. It’s more likely that the club will face a transfer ban and roster limitations for its continental matches.

The other roadblock is that the vultures are already circling in hopes of snapping up the club at a discount. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in particular has been linked with an attempt to buy Milan at a discounted price. New ownership would, at the very least, delay any judgement from the CFCB to allow time for a new business plan to be submitted and reviewed. Milan have called an emergency board meeting, and that’s surely on the table.

The upshot, then, is that we’ll have to spend weeks agonizing over whether or not the Viola will duck into the Europa League. Being stuck in this limbo hurts the club’s transfer policy quite a bit, as it’s unclear if Corvino will be able to rely on Europa payouts when he’s trying to sort out his finances. Too, it’ll make it tougher to recruit players if they’re not sure if the club will be in Europe next year. Again, I don’t think that we’ll see Fiorentina in the Europa League in 2018, but it remains a possibility that disrupts everything else at the club until the CFCB has made its ruling.