By Tony Attwood
You wouldn’t really know it from yesterday’s news coverage of football, but all hell has broken loose. All of the clubs sanctioned by Uefa for breaking FFP reguatlions have agreed to their punishment except one – Manchester City.
And Man City have not just refused to settle – they have refused either to accept their punishment or to go to appeal. They simply haven’t answered.
Let me try and put this in context. In the UK if you get caught speeding in your car you get a fine, through the post. You can then go and fight the case in court, or you can accept and pay up. What it is never a good idea to do is ignore the court. Do that and the case moves from being a minor motoring offence, to a criminal offence. The courts don’t like being ignored.
But Man City is doing just this to Uefa – telling them through inaction that Uefa is nothing of importance. Not even worthy of a reply.
To understand this thinking one needs to remember exactly what Manchester City is. It is in fact part of the PR operation of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is an absolute monarchy in a federation of states which in 2012 restricted use of the internet by its citizens because of “activism”. Democracy and freedom of speech are thus limited, as it is in all absolute monarchies throughout the ages. Human rights groups claim there is a constant repressive attack on dissent with long prison sentences for those found guilty in trials that look nothing like the trials you might see in the UK. Pay is historically low, migrant workers are brought in to do these jobs… It is not quite the slave state that Qatar is, but it isn’t pretty.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan owns the Abu Dhabi United Group, is deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, minister of presidential affairs and member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. is on the Supreme Petroleum Council and the boards of numerous investment companies His power is almighty, and he runs Manchester City.
On May 21, 2013, he bought the rights to Major League Soccer in New York, and already has a club in Melbourne, Australia. Plus Man City Women’s club (which is actually relevant in what follows).
So my point is that like all top dogs in absolute monarchies the Sheikh and his buddies are not people who are used to be said no told. Nor are they used to being told that they are liars and cheats. But that is what has happened, and they have taken it rather badly.
Uefa found that the £151m loss over 2011 to 2013 was outside the FFP limits, and set a deadline of last Friday to accept a €60m settlement to be paid to Uefa over 3 years, plus a limit of 21 players in the Champions League (with restrictions on the number of foreign imports) and a wage cap to the current level. Not as much as Mr Wenger wanted, but a start.
But what really brightens this affair up is the fact that the sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi companies and tourist body (with which The Sheikh as part of the absolute monarchy and as deputy prime minister is rather closely associated with), and the country’s tourist authority clearly suggests that the Man City submission was not as straight as it might have been.
And you might well imagine what happens to people who tell absolute monarchs that they are not doing things right. They get thrown in prison.
Maybe Uefa wanted to back off when they realised that the Sheikh was not going to respond. But in looking at this, Uefa is being edged along by a number of other forces including Arsenal for whom Arsene Wenger who has spoken out clearly saying that Man City should be kicked out.
He is backed by PSG, who accepted their punishment, Monaco (ditto), Chelsea (who worked hard to get their figures under control but who could be in trouble again next year and who really dont want Man C spending eternally), Everton, who have the right to appeal against Man City’s sentence as they have been materially affected by the fact that Man City have not been ejected. Also lined up against Man City are most of Germany’s top clubs who have no problems with FFP.
Man U could also appeal, as if Man C were ousted from Europe Man U would get a Europa League spot (if they want it). Arsenal could appeal on the grounds that if Man C were ejected they would get a place directly in the knock out stage.
But in England the key club is Everton. Everton could appeal – it all depends if they want Champions League football or not.
And there is more – and more. One thing that has made Man City’s situation worse was that they brought in the people who wrote FFP and told them to show Man City the back door – the way around the rules. That has caused annoyance throughout football and outrage in Uefa, suggesting that Uefa were themselves duped by their own accountants.
But where the knife really revolves when it comes to taking on Man City is not just with Uefa’s view that £35m a year sponsorship for naming rights etc is not the price that would have been paid by any other firm. But with the fact that City earned £47m in 2012-13 from “selling their branding, football and other expertise” to clubs that they also owned!!!!! These were their women’s team and their New York team.
It is this questioning by Uefa of the way the Sheikh and co have prepared their finances that has so outraged the absolute monarchy and dictatorship. This is not like suggesting that a company has got it wrong – it is a way of questioning the honesty of the absolute ruler.
Next the case goes to the CFCB’s adjudicatory chamber, which starts the case again. If they find Man C guilty they impose their own punishment – which could include expulsion from the Champions League.
If Man C win, then FFP is dead in the water and Uefa loses all credibility. No one will hold back and everyone will cite Man C as the basis on which they have conducted their accounting. If Man C lose, then there is a real chance that the Sheikh might decide to spend his money somewhere else. He has clubs in New York and Melbourne. He could easily buy a few more outside of Europe, and let Man C just get on with it. He wouldn’t pull out totally, but would just reduce spending dramatically.
This is not going to end in a draw an a nice settlement. This is now a fight until there is a blood bath.
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP