By Tony Attwood
The Premier League has said it will take action in the Manchester City case if any of its rules have been broken. Uefa (now under new management since the Manchester City scandal was initiated) has said that it could go back and look again at the 2014 FFP investigation. This is a step forward from the opening response of not being able to comment because of documents exchanged in confidence. But I am still doubtful.
There are grounds to believe that previous information supplied by clubs was not fair and accurate, and so that justifies breaking any confidentiality clauses. Interestingly, Uefa has also re-stated its belief in FFP, saying that it had been a success.
But as yet no club has called for sanctions against PSG or Manchester City, although PSG is already under investigation, and they in turn have gone to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, and La Liga has now formally asked Uefa to investigate Manchester City.
And to add to the drama and Football Leaks website is saying that it has a load more documents that it has obtained legitimately. Plus we now have information about companies based in the British Virgin Islands (a notorious tax haven) which have been involved allegedly in among other things paying money to Roberto Mancini via an offshore account.
La Liga representatives have also said that the league will complain to the EU Commission if Uefa does not take action against Manchester City and PSG. Customs and Excise in the UK is looking at the situation on the basis that Manchester City is involved in a tax avoidance scheme.
However all the posturing does not mean these actions will take place, and indeed many won’t, because in the end only one action is needed to bring the pack of cards down. And there is also the fact that at the same time as these leaks are coming out we have the stories of the new 16 team super league playing in Europe outside of the controls of the existing competition organisers.
It is also true that as part of its punishment four years ago Manchester City had its list of registered players who could play in the Champions League reduced. This could happen again, although how effective a reduction from say 25 to 19 is as a punishment is hard to say.
However it is within the power of Uefa to ban Manchester City and/or PSG from the Champions League or Europa League for a year or more. That has been done in the past to various clubs for different offences, and might cause Manchester City to pause and think. Although a ban of one year is not likely to have much effect. They would presumably go out and set up their own competition.
But whatever happens we can then expect the two accused clubs to fight back in the courts – which is of course what Manchester City has threatened in the emails claiming it could tie Uefa up in legal knots until it ran out of money and gave in. The cases would challenge the legitimacy of the EU rules on sport as an area of activity that is governed by completely separate business rules from the rest of enterprise.
However laws can be changed, and if the EU felt that its own laws were under attack from non-european bodies such as the owners of PSG and Manchester City, they could get the laws changed. Although the EU moves slowly in such matters I suspect it might speed itself up a bit if it found itself under attack.
Of course another thing that could happen (although knowing the way football changes this is unlikely) is a wholesale change of rules in football in order to bring football back under the control of the nation in which the club is based. This situation has been weakened a lot by having billionaires of foreign nationality owning football clubs like Arsenal.
One step was taken in this direction with the decision of the British government to revoke the business visa of the owner of Chelsea. Such moves could be expanded. That would change the whole drift of the Premier League into being the plaything of the wealthy from overseas.
Certainly something has to give. As the Guardian said recently, “PSG, [Manchester] City and their royal patrons, deploying a combination of titanic legal budgets, threat, pressure and enticement, escaped serious scrutiny or consequence, a process that was facilitated by Gianni Infantino, then the general secretary of Uefa, who bent over backwards to “reinterpret” FFP in their favour. This man is now the president of Fifa, at the very head of the whole rotten fish, where he is busy undermining Fifa’s own ethics committee, and trying to sell new global tournaments to Saudi Arabian investors.”
What does seem to be revealed here by the seemingly endless revelations is that the system is utterly broken, and the checks and balances are non-existent. If an organisation has enough money it will get its own way, and some of the organisations and individuals owning football clubs now have enough money.
So to go back to the start, the question is, who will take action? I think in the short term it really has to be Uefa, whose ex-president has clearly betrayed it by helping Manchester City and PSG beat Uefa’s own rules. (And yes I despair of the fact that I am pinning my hopes on Uefa of all organisations, but then, who else is there?)
But let us remember, the person within Uefa who made all this happen (not allowed all this to happen but made all this happen) is now in charge of Fifa which all countries bow down to in a desperate attempt to get into the world cup finals.
What is actually needed (but I think we are a long way from seeing this) is for the whole edifice of international and national organisation and control to come tumbling down. For let us not forget that the FA and the Premier League have happily allowed Manchester City to do what they have done, and the Ligue de Football Professionnel has allowed PSG to do its thing in France.
And that’s the problem. The whole system is rotten, but its resolve to protect itself is as strong as ever.