Top Turkish football club Trabzonspor to appeal one year UEFA ban

Turkish football club Trabzonspor said it will appeal against the decision by European football’s governing body UEFA to ban the club from European competitions for a season.

On Wednesday, Trabzonspor - a club from the Black Sea city of Trabzon, that is currently top of the Turkish Super League - said on its website that it would appeal the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland within 10 days.

UEFA banned Trabzonspor from its club competitions for one year for failing to meet financial targets, the European football's governing body said on Wednesday.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations are designed to ensure that clubs break even and avoid financial problems in the long-term.

In a statement on its website on Wednesday, UEFA said it had determined in July 2019 that Trabzonspor had "failed to be break-even compliant as required by a settlement agreement” which it entered into on May 20, 2016.

It said it had warned that sanctions would take effect unless the club fulfilled certain conditions, including meeting a target for the 2019 financial year.

"The CFCB [UEFA Club Financial Control Body] Adjudicatory Chamber has now determined that Trabzonspor AŞ failed to meet the target fixed for the 2019 financial year," UEFA said on its website. 

As a result, UEFA stated that Trabzonspor will be barred from one UEFA competition in the 2020/21 or 2021/22 football seasons once the club qualifies for either the Champions League or the Europa League.

The ban would be a huge sporting and financial blow to Trabzonspor, which has struggled on and off the pitch for several seasons but is currently sitting top of the Turkish Super League – which is set to resume play on June 12 after being suspended in March due to the coronavirus.

Financial data released last month for Turkish football’s biggest clubs, whose shares are traded on the Istanbul stock exchange, more or less covered the nine months before the COVID-19 outbreak and revealed a mixed financial picture.

According to reports delivered to the Turkey’s Public Disclosure Platform (KAP), Trabzonspor - which reported losses of 63 million liras (currently worth $9.9 million) in the previous period of June 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019 - reported a profit of 23 million liras ($3.3 million) in the most recent period from June 1, 2019 to February 29, 2020.

But while that data might give some vague idea of the shape of Turkey’s biggest football clubs, it is hard to build a complete picture around their overall economic health.

Turkish football has limited transparency and the clubs have much incentive towards massaging figures and creative accountancy that can be spread between the clubs themselves – which are membership-based associations, that are not subject to full economic oversight in the way that companies are - and the separate companies that are floated on the stock market. 

In reality, all Turkish football clubs are in varying degrees of dire financial trouble. The Turkish Super League’s revenues are dwarfed by its debts, which are the third highest debt in European football – accumulated through years of overspending on transfers and wages under limited regulation – and it is the only European league in which club debts and liabilities are bigger than club assets. 

Much of this debt is owed by the four biggest clubs, and the weakening lira is compounding their problems as much of their debt is in foreign currencies – many clubs were already struggling just to service the interest on their debts before COVID-19. The pandemic is also sure to hit their revenue streams hard.

Trabzonspor is regarded as one of Turkish football’s ‘big four’ clubs, along with its Istanbul-based rivals Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray. Formed in 1967 through the merger of several local clubs, Trabzonspor enjoys fanatical support in Trabzon and among the city’s widespread diaspora. It won the last of its six Super League titles in 1984.