Financial fair play and competitive balance in the Premier League

Purpose: The introduction of financial fair play regulations in 2011 was accompanied by criticism that they would have an adverse effect on competitive balance in European football. Counter-points were also expressed, suggesting that the opposite would occur; that they would actually increase competitive balance through reducing the importance of financial power. The lack of clarity and cohesion on this issue prompted this study, which examines the effect FFP has had on competitive balance in the English Premier League. Design: The analysis conducted uses the Herfindahl Index of Competitive Balance as the primary method, and is supported by standard deviation of points analysis and a Scully-Noll ratio analysis, which together provide an indication of the level of competitive balance for each of the past 21 seasons, from 1995/96 to 2015/16. This examination allows for the trends in competitive balance to be identified, with emphasis drawn on the seasons after the introduction of the regulations. Findings: The results provide no indication that FFP regulations have resulted in a decline in competitive balance in the EPL, instead hinting that a positive effect may have been caused. This positive effect exceeds the primary aim of the regulations and underlines their importance in the future stability of club football. Originality/value: While underlining the need for further research on the topic, this study provides the first insights to the effects of FFP regulations on competitive balance in the EPL. These insights would support the view that FFP initiatives have begun to shift the focus of sporting competition away from financial strength towards more natural means of competition such as efficiency, innovation and good management.