Nottingham Forest face long road to Financial Fair Play recovery

City Ground
Nottingham Forest's losses for the 2012-13 season were in excess of £17m

Few people can claim to be surprised by the Football League transfer embargo imposed on Nottingham Forest. It has been coming for months.

And, though owner Fawaz Al Hasawi has previously claimed to have been unconcerned by Financial Fair Play, his club, his ownership and his manager will now be severely tested.

Forest have not yet revealed the full extent of their losses for season 2013-14 and are not commenting at this stage.

But an educated guess would suggest that their losses will be significantly over the £8m permitted limit. And, if that does prove to be the case, the likelihood of a swift exit from the embargo diminishes.

Existing Championship FFP rules
2014-15: Losses of no more than £3m, up to £6m with owner investment
2015-16: Losses of no more than £2m, up to £13m with owner investment

However far over the threshold they were for last season, they need to claw that back, and save a further £2m, before they can emerge from the transfer shadows and begin trading again on an unrestricted basis.

Given the relaxation of the rules come the 2015-16 season, one strategy may be to ride out the storm - keeping the investment high and living with an embargo until the new, higher threshold kicks in.

Forest do have the advantage that the squad they have already assembled has plenty of quality within it. With an injury-free second half of the season, they may not even need to strengthen - and promotion to the Premier League would certainly mean a swift end to the embargo.

But 'injury-free' is hardly a phrase that can be applied to the Forest squad over recent years.

Stuart Pearce (left) and Fawaz Al Hasawi
Stuart Pearce (left) officially took over as Forest manager on 1 July

Promotion this season looks a big ask from the current position of ninth in the Championship, and the Reds already know that they will lose at least two quality players in Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles to Newcastle in the summer. Replacing them, or anyone else, while still under embargo looks a difficult task.

Forest cannot spend a transfer or a loan fee. They are restricted to a total spend of £600,000 a year on any new signing. That figure includes wages, agents' fees, and any other "employee costs".

Put simply, until they come out of embargo, replacements for the likes of Darlow and Lascelles need to be free transfers or loans and, by Championship standards, not highly paid.

Preparatory Pearce
"If you cannot go out and buy a player in the transfer market that is always a little bit hurtful. But the flip side is that you have to be cute in the transfer market and we feel we have the scouting network that can cope."As a supporter I would not want my club to go bust because of financial overspending, so if the League are putting plans in place to safeguard the long-term future of football clubs then fine, I have no problem with that at all."If an embargo comes in then we will deal with it. We won't bleat. It is something that is historic and has not happened during my tenure. But that is neither here nor there - you deal with the moment in front of you."

Forest can currently add two more players to their squad before anyone has to leave. Any player added, loan or otherwise, regardless of age or experience, immediately counts towards the maximum of 24. That does not leave boss Stuart Pearce with a great deal of room for manoeuvre.

The manager quite rightly points to the likes of Matty Fryatt, Chris Burke and Robert Tesche as examples of players who can be found on free transfers.

Forest's difficulty going forward, though, is that another club only needs to offer such a player a wage of, say £12,000 a week, and they'll know Forest cannot match it.

So, difficult times lie ahead for Pearce and his staff as they bid to strengthen Forest's promotion challenge. They will be forced to show restraint, while fans may have to demonstrate their patience once again.

That's a virtue which has been sorely tested over recent years, and that trend looks like continuing.

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