By Tony Attwood
This summer Manchester City has brought in three players: Darío Sarmiento, Jack Grealish, and Kayky. I am not sure how many more lawyers the club has brought in so far this summer but I do know they are still looking for at least four more, because in the legal press at the moment there are advertisements like this:
Looking for a job:
City Football Group (Manchester, UK)
- Legal Counsel – Legal and Governance
- Legal Counsel – Legal and Business Affairs
- Legal Counsel – Legal and Football Operations
- Associate Legal Counsel – Legal and Business Affairs
Now as we know Manchester City & Co are currently involved in fighting a legal case against the Premier League that is so taking so long that even the senior judges noticed it. Indeed recently the Court of Appeal were more critical of the Man C legal team than I have ever known them to be in such a case.
So why are Manchester City more interested in recruiting lawyers than they are in recruiting players? Or put another way why are they so keen to fight the Premier League all the way, no matter how long it takes?
One reason of course must be that it is successful. They managed to drag out the case against them by Uefa for so long that by the time Uefa managed to get its appeal documentation into the Court of Arbitration in Sport, they were out of time.
As we know, the Mail has claimed, citing some supporting evidence, that since 2010/11 Manchester City’s financial team have repeatedly manipulated their accounts to escape Uefa punishment. And as the Mail’s headline says, “Fresh evidence appears to show Premier League champions had millions funnelled into the club by Abu Dhabi to help inflate their income.”
But let’s be fair. As Law in Sport recently reported there have of late been several cases involving the English Football League on the one hand and Sheffield Wednesday FC and Derby County FC on the other. where the league is trying to regulate its clubs. “The Sheffield Wednesday matters relate to the accounting practices applied to the purchase of their stadium and the non-payment of player wages. The Derby County matters relate to, among other things, the amortisation policy applied to their transfer fees and the non-payment of player wages.”
What these cases both bring up, as the report clearly shows, is the question “Is it time for an independent football regulator?” For that is exactly what football does not have. Thus the club with the most money not only buys the best players, the club with the most money also buys the best lawyers. And although the number of players that a Premier League club can have is regulated, the number of lawyers it can have, is not.
Because there are some rules and no independent regulator things can get messy – as recently when Derby County fielded five players who didn’t have a contract in a pre-season game. Clubs lacking in money have been, most notoriously, selling off their stadia, and then renting it back at eye-watering prices, just so the current owners can try and keep going for long enough for them to find a buyer.
There’s much talk of an independent regulator, but the worry is that even if there is one, the giant clubs could tie her or him up in knots in legal argument and proceedings. And that fact comes from the notion that at least two of the clubs have more access to money than the leagues themselves.
So at the moment, Manchester City are in the odd position of having a limit on the number of players they can use in the league, but not on the number of lawyers who can take on the league. In the end it could well be that which is giving them the advantage.
So having pondered today’s game and the current league table, that’s my conclusion. Maybe Arsenal need more lawyers.
- Arsenal transfers: Gnabry return, White a disaster, Martinez a loss?
- Why do journalists get so fixated on scoring in double figures?
- Buying players does not mean success as last season shows…
- All change with PGMO and the refs.. But what change?
- The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.