La Liga reports Manchester City
As has been anticipated for a little while, La Liga now has formally complained to Uefa regarding Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, claiming each of the clubs are in “continuous breach” of financial fair play rules.
While club licensing is primarily administered by the FA and the leagues in England, Financial Fair Play in Europe is monitored by the rarely mentioned Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).
While the English media likes to maintain the pretence that the English Leagues looks after themselves, the CFCB is defined by Uefa as competent to determine whether national associations and their affiliated leagues and licensees (which is to say the clubs) have fulfilled their financial fair play requirements.
They have the right to kick clubs out of Uefa run club competitions and impose disciplinary measures, and set out their own Financial Fair Play Regulations. The weakness of CFCB is that its final decisions may be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne which has shown itself in the past to be easily swayed by technicalities and powerful lobbying.
This development is part of a growing civil war within European football. While in England this is portrayed as a fight between the clubs that set up Super League and the rest, in reality the war going on is happening beyond these dividing lines.
La Liga regularly refers to PSG and Manchester City “state clubs”, a phrase which the English media never use, for fear that Manchester City might remove their press accreditation and free wining and dining which is central to the English game. As a result, La Liga argues the state clubs “artificially inflate the market, with money not generated within football itself”.
“La Liga understands that the irregular financing of these clubs is carried out either through direct injections of money or through sponsorship and other contracts that do not correspond to market conditions and do not make economic sense.”
Legal representation has also been taken on in Switzerland, to pursue a case against PSG’s president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, for alleged conflicts of interest.
The trigger for this latest round in a battle over FFP which is happening in Europe but (presumably because one of the defendants plays in the Premier League, is ignored by the media in England) was the renewal of the contract of Kylian Mbappé this summer by PSG.
Interestingly Manchester City’s response to the enquiry seems to be one of dismissal on the grounds of the misdemeanours of Barcelona, which signed Torres for €55m in January while still having a huge whole in their own finances, are bigger than their own. It is an argument not known to hold much sway in law, but given the way Manchester City have run rings round the FA is one that Manchester City seems to hold on to.
What adds to the fun is that Nasser al-Khelaifi is also a member of the Uefa executive committee. La Liga and is the Group Chairman of beIN media group, which recently had the big battle with Saudi Arabian broadcaster beOUT. beIN operates in 43 countries around the world.
Khelaifi gabbed the chair of the European Club Association after the formation and collapse of the European Super League, which his club PSG was not part of.
It is also notable that BeIN meanwhile owns the broadcasting rights to Ligue 1 in France which may well have influenced PSG not to become part of Super League since clearly, its existence would have made the broadcasting of matches in the French League to be of less interest.
The last time Manchester City were investigated over FFP breaches they were found to be guilty. But they then appealed and won their case on the technicality that Uefa were too slow in presenting their evidence to CAS. A two-year ban on Manchester City in the Champions League was then also overthrown on the technicality.
It can be argued that the potential conflicts of interest of Nasser al-Khelaifi concerning his roles in PSG and in the European Club Association, and in beIN Sports should debar him from any role in this growing affair, but this does not seem to have interested the authorities in France and Europe very much.
However last month ESPN ran the story, “PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has ‘too many conflicts of interest’ in which Javier Tebas president of La Liga pointed out that “Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the PSG president, president of European Club Association (ECA), member of the executive committee of UEFA and chairman of beINSports (beIN Media Group), one of the biggest TV companies in the world that buys [broadcasting] football rights.
“He [Al-Khelaifi] wears a lot of hats, there’s too many conflicts of interest and this cannot be. It can’t happen in football in 2022. A leading actor like him cannot be in these organisations and preside over a TV channel that buys LaLiga, the Champions League, national teams…”
It is an argument that is hard to refute and one that goes to the heart of the mutliple problems relating to the administration of football in Spain and in Europe. It will be interesting to see if this time anyone stands up to beIN, PSG and Nasser Al-Khelaifi. I wouldn’t put money on it, but you never know.
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