My Ideas about ‘saving Turkish Football’…

Whenever I travel abroad, I always take a look at sports pages in leading international newspapers, through which I improve my knowledge of football, keep my up-to-date with the latest transfer news analysis and the economics of football. As I don’t tend to believe in everything that appears in the press, I also pay attention to the sources used in conducting the analyses.

I used to read UEFA, FIFA studies carefully during my tenure as the Secretary General of Turkish Football Federation from April 2012 to September 2014. Soon after I assumed office, I realized that football professionals employed by the TFF were quite the experts in their own fields and trusting them in tactical/operational stuff so as to develop a lot more strategies would be a smart thing to do. However, Turkish Football’s ‘save the day’ philosophy rather than increasing the focus on designing new strategies made me dislike my job.

When I announced my resignation, one of the executives told me that I’ve failed to love football. “I love football. I just do not like the way it is managed” I replied. How can you not love a game that starts and ends with a whistle; a whistle that tells those 22 persons on the field to fight with everything they’ve got; that encourages millions of people to watch it with bated breath, major brands to race with each other to produce more high-tech equipment and value-added; a game that comprises intelligence, strength, tactics and chance all at once? The only thing I disliked was the flawed approaches that dominated the Turkish Football.

At the very beginning of this process, I realized that current economics of football was way exaggerated considering Turkey’s GDP, GDP per capita and Consumer Spending Trends, which would eventually be Turkish football’s undoing. Maybe we needed to act more calmly back then but I guess there wasn’t enough time to think this thoroughly. My warnings have probably seemed pretty disagreeable to the Federation. I’m just thankful that I managed to leave my duties without breaking someone’s heart. I was sad and upset obviously. But I learnt how to turn those into “experience”. I now remember with respect and appreciation every single person I worked side by side.

I surely must admit that Assistant Secretary-Generals, Coordinators and Director, they were all hardworking and knowledgeable ladies and gentlemen. Throughout the years, I felt prouder as I observed their progress. Some of these people, who have established the very first infrastructure of many concepts that are being used in world football today, currently hold important positions at the UEFA.

In short, Football is a struggle in countries like Turkey because it has the potential to cause political, socio-economic or even diplomatic problems. Football professional always have difficulties in convincing the executives to do the otherwise no matter how capable they are. Although risky decisions made by the executives seem like they would save the day, there’s always a price to pay at the end. Turkish Football almost always faces instability due a lot of issues, including the number of foreign players, disciplinary measures, National Team’s Performance, Referee Decisions, overall pressure from many groups, meaningless obstinacy of executives in admitting they’re wrong, and above all UEFA Financial Fair Play.

Before UEFA, it is the TFF’s Club Licensing Committee that inspects Turkish Football Clubs in terms of many respects, but especially for financial fair play. When you visit TFF’s website, you can read the following part: “The clubs, inspected with the aim of improving inspection standards in terms of different criteria including sports, infrastructure, staff, administrative, legal and financial affairs, and bringing them into compliance with European standards, shall be entitled to play in the leagues.”

Why about those who do not adhere with the rules? Do they face any punishment? Clubs that fail to comply with the criteria set forth in the provisions of the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations will face the following sanctions:


ARTICLE 23 – APPLICATION FOR NATIONAL CLUB LICENSING Super League, Major and Minor League Clubs shall submit their applications for National Club Licensing no later than the end of last business day of March each year. In case of failure to do so, they shall be demoted to the minor league and shall not participate in Turkish Cup competition, without prejudice to the provisions of Article 24.

ARTICLE 25 – REJECTION OF APPLICATION FOR NATIONAL LICENCE LICENSING After assessment by the Committee, clubs that are found incapable of meeting one or some of the National Club Licensing criteria shall be given warnings and granted a specified period of time to make the necessary improvements to meet the aforesaid criteria. In the event that clubs fail to meet the criteria within the given period of time, the Committee shall impose penalties on these clubs in accordance with the category of their leagues and the nature of unfulfilled criteria. In the event that clubs fail to fulfil the above-mentioned criteria within a given period of time and fail to receive National Club License, the sanctions set forth in Annex-XII shall apply. Points deduction sanctions (up to 3 points) to be imposed on clubs in one season pursuant to this Regulation shall apply in the season that follows the date on which the clubs have applied for National Club licensing…”

Additionally, the 99-page Regulation also comprises sanctions set forth in Annex-XII as stated in Article 25. A number of sanctions, from pecuniary penalties to point deduction, transfer ban to demotion to a minor league, are also included in the aforesaid Regulations.

“Delayed justice causes big damage bill…”

We clearly remember that in the past temporary articles have been added to this Regulation to postpone the sanctions imposed on Football Clubs. This action was justified by “We did it for the sake of Turkish Football” but the current state of things shows that Turkish Football has unfortunately underwent an irreversible negative process because of sanctions that should have been imposed when needed.

Due to the fact that no super league clubs have been penalized with points deduction or demotion under Financial Fair Play so far, this last action by the Banks Association of Turkey (BAT) and Turkish Football Federation can be viewed as “last chance”. *

I personally think that football clubs’ current attitude will not allow them to adopt ways that are compatible with modern criteria, because any club, including three major Istanbul teams, has made any changes to their management styles. They continue to do what they’ve always done and keep causing damages. These clubs that are desperate need in live streaming revenue are already transferring their future income. Institutions that are incapable of “net borrowing” have to generate “net income”. As I have mentioned above, it seems unlikely that they can generate net income as they lose money all the time. They should be running surplus in balance of current income and expenditures, except for capital and interest payments; however they keep spending and spending. There are many things involved in this equation, including fan pressure and football community pressure.

In four major teams in Turkish Leagues, 80% of total investments consists of money spending on football players consists while major teams in Europe only allocate 60-65% to transfer business. That is to say, Turkish teams are obsessed with player transfers whereas they should spend money on facilities improvement, infrastructure and producing young footballers. Recently, UEFA has given a fair warning to the TFF about the unlawful payments made to football managers.

Other than that, I have suspicions whether TFF will actually fulfil the above-mentioned criteria. TFF’s current outlook does raise questions in terms of “good governance”, including the decisions made for National Team and League fixtures. TFF has the skills to bend or toughen the rules vis-à-vis the conjuncture. I just want to hope that they will surprise me one day.

There’s a far bitter truth: You know about the high amounts of money that players receive in the world’s most expensive leagues. The management style in Turkish football sadly does not allow setting forth and implementing a plan to meet such huge financial demands. UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy will move further ahead of their competitors. Netherlands will try to sustain its football league through well-established and structured set of rules, while Russia will keep on spending more and more money to keep the league alive. As for clubs in other countries, they will make effort to sustain their founding philosophy by investing in young talents and exporting professional footballers to major leagues. Accordingly, Turkish football clubs will join “the others” eventually.

We need to admit that critical decision-making process, risk management, infrastructure, transfers, fan relations, digitalization, sports organisations and events, and staff of Football Institutions that work like joint-stock companies and are managed through association mentality can only be enough to achieve conjunctural success. This situation can only be solved by “out of the box thinking”, instead of trying to save the day.

I’d like emphasize once again I have little faith that this opportunity, which seems to be carefully designed by BAT and TFF and then offered to Professional Football Clubs, will become a well-taken opportunity. I’d like to thank the authors for their efforts and wish for the best.

PS: A considerable part of the issues I mentioned in this report is also included in my “Modern Futbol ve Sermaye Piyasaları” (Modern Football and Capital Markets” book I have published a couple of years ago. Apparently, what I said in the book still seems valid as a few things have changed since then.