Time for Arsenal, Everton or Man U to think about a complaint

By Tony Attwood
If you have been reading regularly you will know that Untold has covered FFP in some detail – and had a lot of complaints, not to say abuse from Man City and one or two Leicester fans who have accused us (well mostly me) of all sorts of heinous crimes and who have suggested Arsenal (who were not really part of the article) were pretty awful too.
The essence of the argument was that Man City had not ignored FFP, that there never had to be a settlement by the day that we, and the print media and TV said, and anyway Man City were taking Uefa to the European court.
What none of us know was that in the midst of it all Jean-Luc Dehaene who headed the FFP investigations, and was chairman of the Club Football Control Body (CFCB) and who was ill, had his illness take a turn for the worse, and sadly died.  Infantino, who presumably knew, tried to distract us with tales of “hoping to resolve matters before the start of the season,” which was not very helpful, and rather disrespectful.  Or if he didn’t know, he was just making up stories.  
Anyway, once the announcement was made, and a suitable day of quietness had passed, it was announced that Man City had, after the deadline and later than all the other clubs, finally acceded to Uefa and accepted their punishments.   The reason for their delay has still not been made clear, but I’m still with Gab Marcotti on this one – they simply were utterly unprepared for the guilty verdict, and had no mechanism in place to tell the Royal Family, that in essence they had been called out. Some sources are saying that a final decision from the CFCB is still pending, which suggests there has been some negotiation since the initial punishments were handed out.  But for now their punishment is

  • A £49m fine payable over three years,
  • A reduction in their Champions League squad from 25 to 21 players, eight of which must be home-trained,
  • A wage freeze on that squad named for their European matches for the next two seasons
  • Maximum losses of €20m in 2014 and €10m in 2015
  • To “significantly limit” spending in the transfer market for the next two seasons.
  • Not to increase the value of two “second-tier commercial partnerships” with other parties related to their Abu Dhabi-based owners.
  • To agree that revenues from the sale of image rights to related parties will not be included in future break-even calculations.

The full list (mostly only reported in part on UK TV and in the press) is far more extensive than was originally thought, and is said by some to have increased in size as a result of the way in which Man City sought to justify their position. One thing that has emerged is that Man City look very unlikely to formally acknowledge their guilt or protest their innocence, and we still don’t know what Uefa is going to do about this. What Man City is doing however is pumping up the bravado, saying that they didn’t register 25 players for this season’s Champs League anyway, and that their summer transfer plans would be unaffected by restrictions.  However I am not sure how easily the 8 home grown players out of 21 will fit with their scheme of things.  We shall see.

If they comply with those conditions, they will get back €40m of the €60m fine, which will be deducted from their Uefa prize money over the next three years.  One area of interest will be their salary structure as they have already been quoted as saying that although the wage bill for 2014-15 would have to remain at the same level as 2013-14, performance-based bonuses could be paid outside that figure. Uefa may not agree.
The official Man City statement said, “In normal circumstances the club would wish to pursue its case and present its position through every avenue of recourse.  However, our decision to do so must be balanced against the practical realities for our fans, for our partners and in the interests of the commercial operations of the club.”
So now we move into the next phase: the appeals from clubs that are affected by the sanctions and which feel they are too lenient. Arsenal can appeal in that if Man City got thrown out of the Champs League, Arsenal would not have to play in the qualifiers.
Mr Wenger has already spoken strongly about his feeling that Man City should be thrown out. Everton can appeal, in that through Man City’s overspending they have been kept out of the Champs League Man U can appeal in that if Man City were thrown out, Man U would be in the Europa League as everyone moves up one.
Meanwhile it is reported that Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Bursaspor from Turkey, Zenit St Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala and Rubin Kazan from Russia and Levski Sofia from Bulgaria all accepted their punishment by the due date.  Only Man City sought to argue.
Paris St-Germain however noted that their punishment was a “tremendous handicap … in terms of the club’s ability to fully compete on an equal footing against Europe’s biggest teams”, and “deplored the fact” that Uefa had not recognised “the full value” of their back dated partnership with the Qatar Tourism Authority.
We now wait and see if any of the three affected clubs will step up to the mark.  Man U might not, because they are not that keen to play in the Europa anyway, Everton might feel that they are unlikely to progress beyond that qualifiers, and Arsenal might feel that they are better off focussing on the qualifier as a known issue, rather than spending time appealing. We shall see.

25 Replies to “Time for Arsenal, Everton or Man U to think about a complaint”

  1. Perhaps because I view myself as a reasonably intelligent man but no genius, I have always valued clarity in these matters. It seems that the regulations and the way this is being dealt with are purposely opaque. Little effort seems to be made, except by private citizens like Tony, to elucidate the whole process and how the decisions were made.

  2. I’m afraid it’s all beyond me.

    Since CSE maths was also beyond me that’s hardly a surprise. :Smile:

    Thanks Tony for at least trying to clear what are obviously extremely muddy waters.

  3. Tony,

    I agree with your last paragraph except: “Everton might feel that they are unlikely to progress beyond that qualifiers”. I know you know that can NEVER be their reason for not suing. Are you kidding? We are talking about £30 million here!

    I think that Everton might decide not to sue because it will be very difficult to get another team that has qualified ban. There is no doubt that they broke the FFP rules but banning teams is very difficult as I have always maintained on this issue. It is now even more difficult since Man City have accepted UEFA’s punishment even if grudgingly. Also, none of the other offending are being banned.

    Had Man City not accepted the punishment and UEFA chosen to do nothing, then there would have been hell to pay. And whether they would get out of the qualifying stage or not, Everton would definitely have sued. Even with Man City’s acceptance of the UEFA’s sanction, £30 million is enough motivation for Everton to give it a try.

    Another possible scenario is for all the likely beneficiaries of the offending teams’ ban from all the affected leagues coming together to collectively sue for all the offenders to be banned. What do you think about that? It will be difficult but I think they might have better chances that way.

  4. Tony,
    I hope we hear from our ManCity friends that got some modicum of debate going on the subject even if the tone was understandably hostile.

  5. Honestly, I can see a whole range of other considerations the mentioned clubs might have.
    “Don’t rock the boat” might be one of them, as PL clubs have dealings first and foremost with each other; UEFA being some big outside entity for most.

    And, for example: Everton might also remember the joy that having Gareth Barry on loan brought them.

    If Arsenal would be the one to complain, I’m quite sure the media would do a role reversal between victim and perpatrator within a matter of minutes. “Cash loaded Arsenal try to make most of situation poor FFP-stricken Man City find themselves in”, or something along that line.

    That leaves Man U…Somehow I think they have more urgent matters to pursue at the moment. And even the “media loved ones” would have to consider how this would play out in the public (media) eye. For that love seems to have cooled a bit, and a headline of “Man U fight noisy neighbours to acquire thursday night football” wouldn’t be too far away…

    Still, it’s very interesting to see if anything will come of this.
    I will be sure to check this site for updates, as I have been doing for years, so keep up the good work!

  6. If I were a City fan I’d be upset that Chelsea, Real Mad, Barca, Spuds… etc are not reprimanded. I suppose the corruption of clubs like Real Mad goes so deep it’s very difficult to unravel. PSG and City feels like easy picking since it’s obvious where the money comes from. When that money has filled some CFCB pockets those clubs will be in the clear.

  7. Everton has ground to complain in that Manchester City did not give its answer on time. Negotiations were still ongoing after the official deadline. But as the only person on the panel who had been publicly in favour of expelling non-compliant clubs has now died, there is no appetite at UEFA for a confrontational approach. Banning Manchester City would be classified as confrontational!
    Everton will not able or allowed to voice their grievance. Also from a marketing and sponsoring perspective that would make Everton look very unappetising. Who want to be associated with a sore loser club who sue to be reinstated in a competition it failed to qualify on the pitch?

  8. Financial,penalties to a club like City, with its sugar daddy owner is not strong enough.
    City have the largest wage bill in world sport, they can try to use that to bully arsenal into allowing Sanga to go, like they forces us to sell Nastly to the them.

    AFC are perfectly in a position to point out cheating at clubs like City, who are seriously damaging our prospects of keeping star players at our club.

  9. I think the notion of clubs being nice to each other has really gone out of the window this past season with the Liverpool owner openly boasting that he lied to Arsenal about Suarez buy out clause, and Tottenham attempting to get Real Madrid to agree not to sell Ozil to Arsenal if Tottenham sold Real Bale.

    Real will get their just reward, as the land deal with their local council gradually wends its way through the courts.

  10. Tony,
    As you have said many times, professional football and its clubs are big business and all the chicanery and sharp practice which successful businesses use in order to prosper are now de rigueur.

  11. Tony, why are you still banging on that City missed the deadline? There is nothing official that states that. To be honest, I’m fed up arguing with you on that particular issue because you’re just coming across as blatantly wumming now so I’ll move on to the main crux of my post.

    A fellow City fan has just raised a very good point regarding “directly affected” parties mounting an appeal. It can be argued that none of our domestic rivals constitute a “directly affected” party because we’ve not broken any rules regarding Premier League FFP on our way to winning the title. The only rules we’re deemed to have broken are UEFA’s FFP rules so it would make more sense if CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen appealed given that they were in our Champions League group last season and as such, it could transpire that an appeal from a domestic rival is less likely to succeed. In any case, there’s no guarantee than an appeal from any club would succeed in earning us a tougher penalty – they could even rule that the original sanction was too tough, particularly as the club doesn’t believe it actually breached the rules with the outcome announced on Friday seemingly being down to differences in interpretation of the club’s accounts.

  12. Tony: Bravo!
    You said it, and some mocked you, but you were correct.
    Is it believed that Dehaene’s sickness and death prevented timely negotiations between Man City and UEFA?
    PSG is another issue, and I am unclear about one subject. Specifically, tax law in France is such that Ibrahimovic and other top players have to be nominally paid way above what players in other top leagues are paid so the after tax salary is the same.
    My question is thus: does UEFA compute that in; if not, PSG may complain that the rules make them unfairly uncompetitive. Note that I always disliked PSG since I support AS Saint-Etienne, and AS Saint-Etienne has been bullied financially several times by PSG and clubs like PSG. Still, I wonder how UEFA deals with accounting practices (different within the EU as compared to Eastern Europe) and disparate tax
    laws across the continent. I hope someone can clarify this, as I am very unsure…

  13. That’s another sticking point with FFP and it’s an important one – the allowable losses are uniform across all countries regardless of the differing tax laws/thresholds in each of the respective countries. UEFA don’t seem to have given this any due consideration.

  14. M18CTID:
    Indeed. The Qataris should have looked at Aston Villa, but there are too many big tunas in the Premiership. Malaga was a Qatari venture, but it was not the head of the dynasty that funded it, so it crapped out. I am surprised why they did not look at Italy, with Milan being for sale and on sale, but Arabs are suspicious of Italians as they consider them to be corrupt to the core.
    Still, Monaco negotiated a deal with Ligue 1, and they pay some sort of fine, but their wage bill is far less draining than PSG’s as Monaco is a tax haven for the rich.
    It is inevitable to look into this. Monaco is in the CL, and French clubs may complain they were not in because of a difference in tax laws between France and Monaco.

  15. Tony – thanks a lot for the info.

    M18CTID – I think you owe us and mostly Tony an apology, since you were writing so vigoursly about how nothing has been proved and Man City were acting within FFP limits and that FFP regulations are wrong and in contradiction to European competition law and lots of other stuff.

    Well now you are only left with the very pathetic “deadline” contention (well, that’s what usually happens with plea bargains: the defendant admits to his guilt, in exchange for a lenient sentence). So Man City admitted to their guilt. It is also quite obvious from the punishment that they were caught red handed in trying to circumvent the limitations and it supports, in my opinion, Gab Marcotti’s view that they were not prepared to get caught. Oopsy.

    HOWEVER [and sadly after taking a shot at M18CTID who is actually quite a nice polite guy]

    In my opinion there is absolutely NO CASE for the English clubs for legal action against Man City. Whatsoever. If they file a claim, they will lose, and the only result will be making their lawyers richer. It’s a waste of time and money.

    (1) The deadline date is a weak contention when standing all by itself. Man City accepted the plea, so if the contents of the plea agreement are not challenged, then being late by a few days will not count for anything.

    It’s the same in normal civil litigation. For example, when PARTY A is required to file a statement of defense with the court, let’s say until January 15th, and PARTY A misses that deadline, the reality is that the PARTY B could file for an ex parte verdict, but as we know, filing the motion for the ex parte verdict (even if it was filed immediately on January 15th) will take some time to process. If in the meantime (let’s say January 22nd) PARTY A will file his statement of defense – the court has no authority to reject it, and the worst thing that will happen is that PARTY A will get some court fees slapped on them.

    So missing a deadline under most circumstances will not result in losing any substansive rights.

    [It is not true when in special procedures such as tenders and other procedures that require utmost procedural equality].

    (2) The punishment in itself, like I wrote in a previous post, considering the fact that this is a first violation and that this is the first time sanctions are being enforced, is very reasonable. The only way I know plea bargains are being “opened” is when the state offers an offender a very lenient sentence in contrast to very serious offences. This is clearly not the case. And the ability for a third party (for instance: the victim’s family) to argue that a plea bargain should be thrown out the window is very limited and not even recoginzed in all jurisdictions.

    So I don’t think there is case to contend that the punishment is not harsh enough and even if there was, I don’t think that wider considerations should allow third parties to request to overturn a plea bargain (unless it is a really extreme situation, whereby fraud is involved).


    it is very, very rare to prevent a party from filing something with the court just because the deadline was missed.

    First of all

  16. @ m18,

    interesting point about what clubs are ‘directly’ affected. but i would argue since FFP is about getting into CL, which is established domestically, it would be the domestic clubs that are entitled to a compliant. seeing as once you qualify for CL and FFP, your in.
    i think tony is correct in saying its the likes of arsenal, everton and united are the ‘directly’ effected clubs. however, i also agree with @tommiegun that it wont happen. man city have accepted the punishment, as did PSG and a few others. only if they had not accepted the punishment could those clubs have possibly filed a compliant. also, if man city were expelled based on a compliant from everton, then surely the same punishment would also have to be given to the likes of PSG et al.

  17. Tony,

    You make a valid point about the relations between clubs not being very friendly at the moment.

    But in both cases you mentioned (the John W. Henry boast, and the “Levy-clause”), I haven’t seen any legal action being taken, no complaints filed, or even an official statement on the Arsenal website regarding the subject. Maybe I missed it, in which case I apologize.
    My point is, that there’s a difference (in scale) between 1:arguing with/badmouthing/feeling aggravated by your neighbours, 2: invoking the police, and 3:taking them to court. And since I have seen no further action being taken by Arsenal in the Henry/Levy cases (much to my disappointment, I might add) I won’t be holding my breath waiting for a club to file a complaint at EUFA.

    PS: I would have replied sooner, but the site has been unaccessible for most parts of the day here in Holland. Scriptkiddies at it yet again ?

  18. TommieGun,

    I think you’re getting me mixed up with some of the other City fans that posted on here mate – my main bone of contention regarding Tony’s article last week was always to do with him stating as fact that City were ignoring UEFA. That clearly wasn’t the case as we were actually engaging in ongoing discussions regarding the proposed punishment – there’s not a chance that the club would be so stupid as to ignore UEFA’s phone calls, e-mails, etc. Anyway, like I said it’s pointless going on about it and you did say I was quite polite so I’ll let you off 😉

    I pretty much agree with the rest of your post though – it displays a commonsense approach that is lacking in many football fans. On the one hand we have some rival fans calling for City to be booted out of Europe but this was never going to happen for a first-time offence, while on the other hand we have some City fans going to the other extreme demanding that we drag UEFA through the courts over this. Theoretically, City could well do that and could well win but it would take years and cause all sorts of chaos in the meantime with European competitions possibly being suspended pending a decision, etc. That would be pointless and wouldn’t do anyone any favours, and is echoed in the statement that the club put out. Besides, for all the posturing about FFP, I actually think it benefits City in the medium/long-term because while there are initial teething problems, the club shouldn’t have too much trouble meeting the regs in future and with the regs now being in place, it’ll be nigh on impossible for another club to break through into that elite group of clubs so FFP in effect should help City cement their position. My argument was that this isn’t fair on other clubs that might want to invest in future in order to grow but from a purely selfish point of view FFP helps us.

  19. John L,

    Yes, I can see your point of view regarding directly affected clubs and it’s something I’ve considered. However, those clubs could only benefit if City were expelled from the CL altogether and that was never really going to happen for a first-time offence so an appeal on those grounds may be deemed frivolous. Of course, if City were judged to have breached the rules next time around then we’d be in dangerous territory and a heavier punishment would surely be administered.

    Another thing that might prevent an appeal from Arsenal in particular is the close relationship that City’s owner has with the people connected with Arsenal’s main sponsor. I can’t see anyone wanting that relationship to be compromised.

  20. @ M18CTID, it’s not common sense, it’s experience. The first thing I tell a client is that the worst settlement agreement is better than the best winning verdict. I guess Man City’s lawyers told them that too.

    There is no reason for Man City to be the champion of all other “big spenders” vs. UEFA. This would be a clear case of hitchhiker’s syndrome. They will only get UEFA pissed off at them.

    I agree (and even wrote, as far as I remember) that FFP will benefit everyone in the end (but not like you wrote). Salary caps benefited everyone in the US, even though I guess that it was frowned upon when the then-rich clubs were facing limitations that were not present up until then. As always, a change of regulation will hurt SOMEONE who was at the wrong end of the cut off date.

    But after a short adjustment period, everybody won – the clubs, the league, and the fans. If Man City’s owners are serious about the club (and sadly to us Gooners it seems they are) – investing in youth academies, training grounds, etc. – then by all means, in a few years when the financial playing field is level, this will be only a positive thing.

  21. Tommie Gun,

    I think the way they’ve done things in the US with salary caps and the draft system is a much better way to ensure true fairness than certain aspects of FFP so unlike in American sports, I doubt that everyone will see the benefit. However, I could never see the draft system being accepted in football anyway, or salary caps for that matter, so we’ll just have to see how it all pans out with FFP.

    My own opinions on this are purely from the viewpoint of a football fan and how it may affect the dreams of fans of other clubs. In simple terms, I think every football fan that has invested time, money, and effort into following their club deserves to taste success – hell, I’d even include our neighbours in that 😉

  22. Once upon a time, and there was a fine gentleman who moved into a new town because of his work. Once there, he realized the town people was still riding on cart with cows. Immediately, his conscious told him do improve the way of transport there. He introduced engines, cars and new industry of automobile took off there. After many years, the old town had become a bustling town with broad roads, big freeways and sporty cars. Everybody was happy and joyful because proper transport gave them safer, faster journey and proper income. Unfortunately, many people suffered from road kills and accidents. The town people started to criticise, condemn, question and humiliate the gentleman because of his action in the past. Some of them even threw bananas at the gentleman while driving. Subsequently, the newly elected mayor, who happened to be from the gentleman’s place of origin introduced traffic rules. At a press meeting with the town people, the mayor said “I am glad to say that this traffic law will save many lives and install proper driving ethics in the town people.” A slightly drunk man stood up and ask the mayor, “Hey, Major. You cant do this. You are not even from here. You cant force us to be ethical. It is our choice. Its democrasy.” The mayor replied “Young man, the day you lose your ethics is the day you lose your democrasy. It was your choice indeed. As a citizen of democracy, you must obey these rules. And I will always be a Major for you. So shut the hell up and sit down. Anyone else?” The press meeting ended.

  23. In an earlier, I commented that Manchester City had tried every tricks in the accounting book and were surprised to be task about it. Reading the new details emerging from the deal, it is clear that For once a regulator UEFA had top accountants and auditor.

    No possibility to increase the revenue by increasing shirt sponsoring to ridiculous out of market price.

    No possibility to sell intangible such as intellectual property rights to generate more revenue.

    Manchester City were picking and choosing their method of accounting treatment of pre 2010 players purchase. Those already resold at a loss (Jo, Adebayor, …) were still amortised. Those in profit were budgeted as profit. They were told you choose one method and apply across the board. Increase past deficit or increase current and future deficit.

    Obligation to present the auditing result the same way for the next season. Changing auditor to get a more sympathetic ear, suddenly lose its appeal.

    Manchester City got cornered and realised that they were unlikely to win. I suspect that they were unprepared to that level of expertise on UEFA side.

    Medium term, that even benefit them. They will be in the position to tell a seller that they can’t go any higher because of FFP. Clearly in the last couple of years, Manchester City and PSG were overcharged by selling clubs. No more.

    That will also benefit the rest of the clubs. If there is less profit to be made on players, then secret hedge fund have less incentive of buying player. Third party ownership will go on the down. Suddenly club will be able to afford their own players. Some club like Porto, Athletico Madrid don’t own their players. They just loan them from a secret hedge fund. Look at Mangala’s price. Completely unrelated to his real value, but due to some hedge fund wanting to make a killing.

    Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not the best of friends. Etihad and Emirates are fierce rivals. Arsenal expect to qualify for the group stage. There is therefore few benefit in suing. That extra game may even bring more revenue. On the other hand It would make sense for Everton. Arsenal winning the FA Cup. Means that Spurs would not be affected. The other team affected is Manchester Uniter, however Manchester United do not want to play in the Europa League as that will give them the opportunity to play three fee paying friendly mid week games (one in the North America, one in the Middle East and one in Asia) during the season without overloading their players.

    Regarding Liverpool’s refusal to deal, Arsenal could not sue without having to reveal how they were made aware of the clause. Obviously somebody talked about it. That talk is unlikely to have been authorised by LFC. Nobody is willing to expose the murky world of agents. Some you lose, some you win.

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