By Tony Attwood
This article continues from my earlier piece: Did Uefa collude with Man City in an FFP cover up across the last four years?
Both articles continue from the investigation we did four years ago which resulted in a series of articles, the last of which was Man City decides to take on Uefa; the result will finally decide who runs football
So now, continuing on, I must be quite clear that of course Untold Arsenal has not done this research, and can’t validate any of the issues being discussed here, any more than we could four years ago when we were pretty much alone in the early days of following the story. No, I’m merely doing two things. First summarising one or two of the points raised, and second remarking on the fact that whereas we were so very much on our own on this one four years ago, with the English media initially not willing to follow the story at all, now it is getting a bit of coverage. Perhaps not as much as what has happened in a soap opera, but a bit. And maybe 0.0001% of this increased interest is down to us and the way we caught them out last time.
So, as we reported, Manchester City were fined £49 million for breaching the regulations, but only paid £17m of that (the rest suspended pending the good behaviour of the club in the future). Now because of Der Spiegel there appears to be a growing clamour in Europe that this time the English press can’t a) ignore the piece and b) pretend it is just something that silly foreigners are getting all worked up about but really there is nothing to see here and we should all move on.
Well, actually they can claim that, and some of them are doing that, but there seems to be enough evidence this time to suggest that that something has to give.
There are already comments from some clubs doing the rounds that this time the clubs want the allegations properly considered, and Manchester City should be held to account – comments that recognise that four years ago Man City simply agreed to pay a fraction of the fine, and everything was let slip – with the connivence of the English newspaper and broadcasting industry who really didn’t want to know at all. And particularly tellingly this time, one unnamed source is now quoted as saying “No other Premier League club has this kind of sponsorship model.”
Another change is the response of Manchester City. While four years ago, the other clubs who were caught out by FFP all responded at once by settling with Uefa, Manchester City entered a prolonged period of silence. This time they have made a statement which says, “the attempt to damage the club’s reputation is organised and clear” and note that the allegations are based on hacked and stolen information which is taken out of context. But as even some of the UK press have noted, they haven’t actually replied to the allegations. They don’t have to of course, but sometimes silence isn’t exactly helpful.
But above all, some of the media is covering the story this time. Only a bit of the media and only a bit of the story, and not as the lead piece of the day, but there is movement. I don’t know why of course, but it might just be that eventually the mainstream media did realise last time that they were being made to look stupid by utterly refusing to accept that an English Premier League club might ever do something wrong.
However that is not to say of course that Machester City are guilty. As I pointed out in the articles in 2014 and must reiterate now, Untold isn’t doing this research – all we do is cover stories that are already out there, and which just very occasionally one of the researchers gives us a tip about – which is how we managed to be ahead of the game with the story linked to above, four years ago. But we certainly don’t have any proof, nor have we done any hacking or stealing. In other words, “It weren’t us m’lud.”
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All we can do is quote some of the alleged emails from alleged people to alleged people. For example it is alleged that allegedly in 2010, Manchester City discussed a £15 million sponsorship deal with Aabar Investments PJS, an investment company headquartered in Abu Dhabi with investments around the world. Mr Pearce a board member of Mancheester City is alleged to have written, “As we discussed, the annual direct obligation for Aabar is GBP 3 million. The remaining 12 million GBP requirement will come from alternative sources provided by his highness.”
And the suggestion is that is not how it is supposed to be. Not at all. In fact Der Spiegel says that it has seen a private Manchester City document that is headed “Summary of owner investment” which notes that around £150m appears to be entering the accounts as a “supplement to Abu Dhabi partnership deals” but seemingly from sources that are not at all clear. Which is not how it is supposed to be in a world in which Financial Fair Play exists.
That this is all to do with FFP is further suggested by a note in 2013 which suggests that there is a problem with meeting the FFP requirements in the season and that a further sum of around £10m is supplied in terms of sponsorship to cover the extra money that Manchester City has spent.
In one section, which appears to be utterly hilarious (if I have read it right) there is a suggestion that the deal is changed so that the sponsors pay extra sponsorship money for Manchester City winning the FA Cup. This would be perfectly reasonable of course because if a company sponsors a club and the club wins the FA Cup, the sponsors will have got a lot of extra publicity out of the final at Wembley. I don’t know if Emirates Airlines paid Arsenal extra each time Arsenal won the FA Cup with those three wins in four years, but if they did I doubt anyone could complain.
So the deal seems fair to me, in my simplistic way, except for one thing. Manchester City did not win the FA Cup in the year in question. Etihad Airlines, whose name obviously comes up in some of these allegations have denied all and any wrong doing.
There’s some murky stuff lurking in here, and as with four years ago, all I can say is that such allegations need to be investigated. The one difference is that four years ago the English media really, really, really didn’t want to know. This time, it might be just a bit different. I can’t say for sure, but the one or two people who kindly occasionally slip little snippets our way suggest that this time the serious media is not going to pretend it is all just fluff and flummery, and there’s nothing to see.