by Tony Attwood
Normally, in any European court of law, when a defendant threatens the judge or the prosecuting counsel the defendant is taken to the cells and is subsequently prosecuted in a separate case. Threatening the judge, the legal system or the prosecution counsel is considered rather a serious offence.
But of course, as we all well know, the normal rules of decent behaviour, the rule of law, and in fact pretty much the rule of anything else doesn’t apply these days in football. The judicial system being under the control of an elected parliament, the openness of the courts, the avoidance of secret hearings… we are probably 100 years or more away from such notions in professional football in Europe.
Manchester City’s owners’ behaviour suggested this when they threatened to destroy UEFA with legal action taken by the owners against Uefa in every court in the continent, bringing down not just Uefa but the whole of European football, after Uefa started to investigate action against the Abu Dhabi based owners of Man City for hiding costs and income. And the matter is now back in the open as many of these documents have now been published pending the next round of hearings.
Manchester City also criticized the journalistic coverage of the events, which of course they are entitled to do – as indeed I do all the time with the rampant negativity that we see each day surrounding Arsenal. That was fine, although claiming that the case is invalid because the evidence was hacked in the first place doesn’t work so well. In essence the truth is more important than the source of the evidence.
We also have the widely reported fact that the chief exec of Man City discussed the case secretly with Gianni Infantino, which Infantino defended by saying that his job involves having lots of discussions and Many City paid a little part of the fine that is paltry in relation to their wealth, laughingly spread over three years, as if they didn’t have any money.
But then they stopped making payments and announced they would prefer to spend the money tying Uefa up in court for as long as it took. They also threatened to destroy the auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers “within weeks” through a series of legal cases.
Uefa backed off for a while but then had another go and have finally got ready to run the case next month after the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which itself holds hearings in secret, and was thus, I would have thought, the perfect place for Manchester City hearings to go forward. But Man City appealed again. Cas said that Man City could not appeal because Man City had not exhausted the other possible areas of appeal.
Meanwhile Manchester City have now accused the investigatory chamber of ignoring a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence. In short they are accusing the Uefa legal system of either bias or incompetence.
So we await the next phase. Where will it take us? Probably to more appeals and ultimately a modest fine and a year outside of the Champs League. After that I suspect Man City will be free to spend as much as they want, any time they want.