And so, the investigation into Manchester City has begun.

By Tony Attwood

If you are a regular reader you might remember that over four years ago we ran the story,   Man City decides to take on Uefa; the result will finally decide who runs football.     We’ve come back to that from time to time until back in November last year we ran a series of articles looking at various aspects of the leaked emails which purported to reveal that Uefa colluded with Manchester City to allow them to break Financial Fair Play regulations.   The series started here, and should you wish you can follow it through day by day on the site.

I think we reviewed most of the issues there, ranging from whether documentation that has been obtained by hacking can be used legally and morally, or considered reliable, to one that occupied many readers – that is the legality of the FFP regulations themselves.   This last point always occupies a lot of time and we did refer to the various court cases which have investigated this issue and the EU’s vision of the special place in society of competitive sport that is organised into leagues, and how it cannot readily be treated identically to other commercial activity.  I’m not sure there is anything much that can be added to those earlier discussions.

And of course we dealt with the notion that Untold wouldn’t be looking at the issue if it were Arsenal in the dock and not Manchester City, along with questions about my own views of Emirates Airlines and sponsorship taken from organisations closely related to states whose political stance I don’t like.  It’s all there if you want to read it, and I don’t really want to go over it again (although I can confirm, for readers who seemed to be very exercised by the issue, when I travel to see my daughter in Australia next week I shall, once again not be using any middle east airline nor stopping in a middle east country for refuelling).

So it was all covered: the serious, the international, the personal, the trivial and the political.  And now, getting on for four months later, Uefa has formally opened its investigation into Manchester City following on from the Der Spiegel allegations.

At the heart of all this is the suggestion that investment by the Manchester City owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al- Nahyan, a member of the mega-wealthy family that runs Abu Dhabi, and which was put it down in the books as sponsorship by Etihad airlines (who I am also not using for my trip), was in fact a personal investment.

The problem for Manchester City arose initially from a leaked email that openly stated that of the £67.5m to be given to the club in 2015/16 as sponsorship money, only £8m would come from Ethiad and £59.5m by Sheik Mansour’s own company.  Thus there are two issues – one that the value of the sponsorship was unreasonably high, and that the information given to Uefa was knowingly dishonest.

Since then the man identified as the source of the leaks, Rui Pinto has been arrested pending extradition from Budapest to Portugal to face charges of illegally accessing information, not related to the Manchester City case.

Manchester City have recently said that they welcome the “opening of a formal Uefa investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails. The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false. The club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”

Etihad Airlines denies that anyone other than they themselves paid for the sponsorship, saying in a statement: “The airline’s financial obligations, associated with the partnership of the club and the broader City Football Group, have always been, and remain, the sole liability and responsibility of Etihad Airways. This is reflected in the airline’s audited accounts.”

There are also other sponsorship arrangements in the accounts which have been called into question on the grounds of whether their value has been massively exaggerated.  Again all the details are in our earlier articles

If any of this were to be found not to be true, then that would call into question the reliability of the accounts of the airline and the football club.  If they were found to be unreliable then that would open enquiries by the state into the accounts of the club.

But there is also one other factor which emerged during the revelations last year: the position of Gianni Infantino. He became Deputy General Secretary of Uefa in 2007, and Secretary General in October 2009 and during this time there, Uefa introduced Financial Fair Play.   There are multiple allegations within the leaked emails that Infantino was complicit in helping Manchester City find a way around the regulations and indeed had a part in covering up the story.

Also revealed in the leaks were the threats by Manchester City’s owners to bring Uefa down through an endless series of court actions if Uefa tried to take any action against Manchester City.

The process will inevitably take a long time but it will be interesting to watch it develop, not least for the impact the case has on Infantino and on Uefa.

23 Replies to “And so, the investigation into Manchester City has begun.”

  1. But Instead of to have voted for Prince Alli of Jordan during the last Fifa president election as the new Fifa president when the office was vacant who if he had been voted into office could oversee true and honest reforms in Fifa. But all the Uefa nation’s Football Associations or nearly all of them opted to vote en masse for Gianni Infantino suspiciously on racial ground as the new Fifa president who succeeded Sepp Blatter the ousted president of Fifa. But Is Infantino the Biblical King Saul who the people of Israeli nation had chosen to be their King but who turned to become their nemesis latter after he became their King.

  2. A case of long established clubs not liking the nouveau riche and deciding to try and topple them off the field. Let’s try and be objective City are financially self supporting , make a profit and have no debt. The financial fair play rules were stacked against clubs who went through an initial investment period….why? That is the reality faced by any developing business and is not a crime. Perhaps those with huge debt would have been more logical targets but that would have hurt the old established hierarchy.

  3. I remember that I read the original article when it was published. Somehow, I did not realise that I have been coming to this site daily for more than four years! Time flies…..

  4. An interesting theory Steve, but I think you would need to explain why Uefa would both to stack the rules against certain clubs. Just saying it and asking “why?” is not really proof that it happened. And it does rather by pass the fact that it would appear from the outside that Manchester City may have broken the rules. You position seems a little to me like saying that the30mph speed limit in English towns is stacked against motorcyclists who can go much faster.

  5. Stevie I am sorry to say I don’t understand your post at all. If you would like some discussion to follow from it, perhaps you could write a little more using a more conventional approach to English…

  6. Tony, your analogy is way off. What were saying here is that motorcyclists have been able to go through English towns at whatever speeds they have wanted for over a hundred years, with those on the best motorbikes going fastest. Now someone has come along with a better motorbike, the other motorcyslists have their nose out of joint and have decided a 30mph speed limit is the way to go. How is that not against certain motorcyclists? Not only that, but those who are implmenting the 30 mph speed limit have been banned from motorcyling for corruption (Platini)or from steeling motorcycles (Hoeness). Further, any evidence the 30 mph speed limit has been broken has been aquired illegally and would be laughed out of any court.

  7. Tony
    I’ve been following your reporting on FFP and City. I’m certainly a layman in my knowledge (or lack) of the rules and the offenders. However, one thing is certain, the amount of money in and surrounding the game breeds corruption. Being a cynic, I’m convinced all Associations related to football are corrupt. Too much money to be made ranking, scheduling, rules making, etc. I knew all was lost when the World Cup was rebranded as the FIFA World Cup. I wondered, who are these people? Now we know. Same with UEFA. When Blatter was in charge FIFA had stashed almost 3 billion! To what end? Bribery and control. Infantino and his minions at UEFA? The same. National Football Associations round the world have rolled over and accepted this. Why? Could something nefarious be afoot. Not according to the FA and 99% of the media.

    I don’t care much for the World Cup competition and like it less as it expands. I watch because I love football and see players I otherwise wouldn’t see. I love Club football. I love the FA Cup. Probably my age, since it’s value seems to have been diminished by the Media in England.

    The corruption could be rooted out, but not ended, again too much money. I’d like to see the top U.K. and Continental sides form their own competition without the national associations and without UEFA. Put Old Red Nose in charge. At least he might look after the EPL teams that are constantly at a disadvantage under the current system. Meanwhile, I’ll devote my time and occasional expenditure to the EPL. Still, 1-20, the top league in the world.

  8. @goonersimnce72 – The problems at the moment stem from the fact that a few clubs dictate what happens at UEFA and FIFA and national FAs. The last person I would put in charge is Red Nose – the only honorable person I can think of is Arsene Wenger.

    How else do you explain the Champions League?

    The last thing we need is for a “club” sanctioned tournament.

    We need a total restructure of all the football bodies to a more demcratic input. Yes I know this is a pipe dream but it is the only way I can see any future.

    Meanwhile I accept that most, if not all, the leagues and competetions in Westerm Europe, at best tinged with corruption if not downright dirty. Most of the results are manufactured much like the WWE bouts – after all that is the only explanantion for PIGMOB behaviour in the EPL.

    Still like WWE its “only a show folks”

    Sadly sport has very little to do with it. The one person I do have respect for is Arsene Wenger – he knows that this is happening thats why the media and pundits dont like him.

  9. Further to my post earlier.

    It would help if UEFA FIFA and national FAs actually enforced the rules they have at the moment – That might help.

    One can but dream…

  10. Steve Williams
    08/03/2019 at 9:51 am

    1 Billion net loss on transfers over a 10 year period. ONE BILLION

    “Let’s try and be objective City are financially self supporting , make a profit and have no debt.”

    You are so funny.

  11. I believe EPL has said it has begun investigating as well now. How? Wait until UEFA concludes, and then announce the same thing UEFA announces?

    Surely independent investigations have to come to the same conclusions? If one says they are in breach of rules, and the says they are not; how does one solve the problem then?

  12. Directors loans of billions is not debt?? Apparently when the cash comes from drilling it is tax free, non refundable, invisible and cannot be considered as debt.

    What a wonderful world.

  13. At it’s inception I wrote that a coach and horses would be driven through FFP. and so it has proved to be the case. It was fooloish to think otherwise.

  14. porter

    Well it had the word ‘fair’ in it, so your right, it was doomed from the start.

  15. OT: VAR

    Wired has a good article about the need to help referees, not necessarily limited to VAR. The article starts with Kane’s faulty penalty in the NLD, so it is a current article.

    Various people were interviewed as part of the process of writing that article. One gets the idea from this article, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with how the PGMO operates (because PGMO is specifically mentioned in the article). But surely learned people at PGMO are capable of looking for the presence of bias in decisions made on the field? Is that not as big a problem as the very real problem of officials making incorrect decisions?

    The narrow angle of view lighting presented sounds like a reasonable way to help with offsides. Or at least a part of a solution to reducing errors in offsides.

  16. Les Williams @4:39pm

    By referring to Sir AF as “old red nose” I thought readers would realise it was meant tongue in cheek. i agree with your points as well. It goes without saying on this site, anyway, that AW is not only honourable and honest, but one of the greatest managers of any era. As I’ve posted many times, name another manager who could have kept the club in the top 4 with the squads he had after building the new stadium. Seriously, who? As I recall, those sides had one good fullback, one midfielder, and when he wsn’t injured, a good striker. Compare that to the wealth of talent AF was able to trot out, season after season.
    I’m sure I’ll be hearing it from the die-hard fans (fanatics) for any criticism of those squads. “What about so-and-so, he wasn’t top?” No he wasn’t. Look at the record.

  17. @goonersince72 I am not an Arsenal fan but AW is one the great coaches for me. Full stop.

    Sorry now reading it again I see the irony – sorry.

    On the other side of you comments I have always thought that Old Red Nose was not such a great coach given the resources at his disposal. Both wins in the UCL in 20 years were against superior teams who lost unluckily.

    I never saw his sides as great “footballing” sides. They were mostly dirty up and under teams that got lucky. They wre never that great to watch

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