The future of football
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By Tony Attwood
It is not being picked up in many places but the Telegraph (a right-wing English newspaper, available online for a subscription fee) has it. Today is not just the day that Boris Johnson (an ex-prime minister) has accused the privileges committee of acting as a “kangaroo court” and of his political party running a “witch hunt” it is also the day that is the third anniversary of Uefa kowtowing to Manchester City in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, by presenting its evidence too late and thus handing the victory in the appeal to the club.
As a result the two year-ban from all European competitions wsa dropped, the rather trivial (given City’s finances) €30 million fine was reduced by two thirds, and Uefa’s reputation was left in ruins. It was a moment that led the rest of the Premier League inevitably to the decision if Manchester City’s approach to finances was to be stopped, they had to do it themselves.
Although it wasn’t just the defeat to Manchester City that started the feeling in Europe that something had to be done away to get away from Uefa, for this defeat came just over a year after the same Court of Arbitration let Paris St-Germain off the hook.
Given that the man in charge of PSG was also the man in charge of most of European football that was not too much of a surprise, although to be quite clear I am not suggesting I have evidence to say PSG manipulated the situation. But it is interesting that La Liga put in a complaint to Uefa saying that it had failed to do its duty over the issue of club finances.
Two matters flowed from those two victories for PSG and Manchester City. One was the idea of setting up a European Super League run by the clubs and very specifically without PSG involved. The other was the notion that if anyone was going to deal with the super clubs run by nation-states it was going to have to be the other clubs. The Super League was defeated by fans and the media, perhaps because they liked Uefa, or perhaps because the nation-state clubs were so good at paying to have their story put across. (Again I stress I am saying “perhaps”. I have no evidence I can present to back this up).
But certainly, the Telegraph feels things have moved in a similar way to the way I feel they have gone, for it says today, “Defeat to City served notice that the nation-state clubs, with their unlimited wealth, and legal power it brought, were too powerful an adversary for Uefa and its lawmakers.”
As they go on to say, Manchester City’s owners would, if not allowed to have their way, “unleash 50 lawyers for 10 years at the cost of €30 million, rather than bow to Uefa’s rules.”
The Telegraph also says that Uefa is now, “fighting for its very existence,” which is interesting as I don’t recall seeing this being written in any newspaper or said on radio or TV before. It’s what I have been trying to argue, but now to have the Telegraph saying it, well, maybe Untold is on the right track.
As you may recall Uefa alleged that Manchester City had “overstated sponsorship revenue by around £204 million between 2012 and 2016.”
Manchester City’s argument was that it had sold sponsorship rights to Abu Dhabi companies. But Uefa had dragged their feet and then CAS ruled they were out of time.
That they were out of time because Manchester City did then what, according to reports they are doing now, and taking as long as possible over every step, in order to ensure that the case doesn’t get before the tribunal by the due date, was still the fault of Uefa. At that moment it lost all credibility. And that lack of credibility was extended when it became clear that two of the three judges who would decide the case were nominated by Manchester City.
The result marked the start of the end for Uefa, whose stumbling incompetence has been highlighted over and again ever since. Multiple examples could be presented but the Paris Champions League final is a perfect example. So was awarding the Euro final to the FA for it to be played at Wembley. If you want to find an organisation that has no idea how to hold an event during a pandemic, there you have one.
Now, utterly aghast at Uefa’s and FA’s combined incompetence, the Premier League is doing their job for them, and they think they can win, no matter how long it takes. Because if things go as hoped by the Premier League they will show that Manchester City have broken the financial rules and guidelines repeatedly from 2009/2010 to 2022/2023. That will not only result in points deductions (in that fines will be pointless since clearly the club has access to all the money it could need to pay them) but also effectively warn the club against doing this again. Which would in effect dismantle the whole model on which they are built.
Failure by the League to win the case on the other hand will open up the Super League again, and this time no matter what the media are persuaded to say, the fans are most likely to demand that their clubs play in a competition in which one club doesn’t have an insane advantage over everyone else, from the off.
Manchester City would then be left in what would effectively look like the Championship – although there is doubt as to whether the Championship would want them in. They would then most likely form a new league consisting of PSG, Manchester City, four clubs from Saudi Arabia and probably the clubs from Italy, Spain and Greece who would see this as a way out of their own financial collapse.
Of course, I could be quite wrong. We shall see.
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