By Tony Attwood
I recently wrote a piece in which I said that the signing of Frank Lampard by Manchester City involved some sort of jiggery pokery.
In that regard I was right – but those Manchester C fans who wrote in to Untold were also right – because I got the nature of the jiggery pokery quite wrong. I’m sorry about that.
My suggestion was that Manchester C and New York City FC had colluded in a way that only clubs that are owned by the same person but which are in different Federations, can do, to experiment with ways of moving a player while getting round certain elements of FFP in Europe and the Premier League.
What was in my mind, although not fully explored in the article was that this was perhaps a dry run for a scheme which would put all the clubs owned by Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, via the City Football Group in a position in which they could freely exchange players to the benefit of each other.
I was also thinking that if the City Football Group (which also includes Melbourne City FC and Al-Jazira Sports & Culture Club) continues to expand it could by-pass regional rules quite effectively.
But it seems I was getting ahead of myself. I do think that the evolution of the City Football Group is something to be wary of, not least because if a South American club is added to he group it would give the Group enormous power in terms of player exchanges), but it looks like this either wasn’t the game this time, or it was the game and they cocked it up.
My information at the time came from the usual sources, in particular the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian and the Independent newspapers, the last two being perhaps the most realistic and reliable of an unreliable press in the UK.
But it seems that in putting it all together I got it wrong.
What seems to be the real story was that Manchester City FC deliberately or accidentally misled the news media in both the US and the UK.
Manchester City have now confirmed that Lampard was and is contracted to themselves. This comes five months after they very clearly and openly claimed to have signed the midfielder on loan from New York City FC.
What we now know, and what many Manchester C fans confirmed on this site was that Lampard was signed on a 12-month contract last August, which included a December 31 break clause, rather than a six-month deal up to and including New Year’s Eve, as the club had said before.
Anyway, the Premier League is now getting a bit hot under the collar about all this, and it seems fans of New York City FC who bought advance tickets partly in the hope of seeing Lampard because they (like me and a few other people) took Manchester C at their word when they said that the player had signed for New York City and been lent to Manchester C.
Manchester C’s official Twitter account said on August 6 that Lampard had signed a loan deal at the Etihad Stadium. The tweet has now vanished into the ether and the website link deleted.
The Independent has said that, “Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, conceded at the weekend that an ‘error of judgement’ was made by all parties involved in failing to disclose earlier that Lampard would not actually arrive in New York until July this year.”
Manchester C have also said that, “the statement on the NYCFC website in July saying Lampard’s two-year contract took effect from Aug 1, 2014 was a mistake… the initial statement on the City website that it was a loan was also an error…
“… There was never a break clause in Lampard’s contract dated 31 December – the short-term contract with City only ran to December 31”.
But this is where the old saying about when one is in a hole one should stop digging comes in.
For this new revelation shows Manchester C have contravened Premier League regulation T11 that says that the minimum length of a Premier League player contract is one year. So it looked like Manchester C could not have signed Lampard.
And yet, the statement now is that “Frank Lampard has not signed a binding contract with New York, and is registered solely to Manchester C.”
The Premier League is investigating and asking for explanations.
I will know to be more cautious in my use of Manchester C as a source in the future, and indeed not assume that a Premier League club would not flagrantly break a significant and well known Premier League rule in this way. So, sorry about that.
But I remain interested in the expansion of the City Football Group. The rules are less stringent in some parts of the world, and I still think the addition of a South American club, if it happens, could be somewhat concerning. This open breach of Premier League rules in order to get the player they wanted in the place they wanted shows the danger of such a group of clubs spread across the world. Especially where they get the details wrong.
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