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By Tony Attwood
For years and years the media has stayed silent (at least in comparison with the media in Europe) on the subject of Manchester City, and yet now suddenly we have the Daily Mail pounding out the story with talk of “Grubby emails, an army of lawyers and a flagrant contempt for rules… When will Man City take a long, hard look at themselves and realise how deeply unattractive they’ve become?”
Somehow it seems the English media has taken its own advice and realised their abject refusal to cover stories relating to the clubs financial dealings, has made them very unattractive indeed.
As such, the media in England has implicated itself in the Manchester City scandal, and have played the lead roll in suggesting that nothing is the slightest bit wrong.
However now we have the Sun suggesting that Manchester City could be relegated or even banned. Yet this is the newspaper who’s reporting of previous Manchester City affairs was so far beyond reality we were moved to write the headline, Why the Sun decided to support Manchester City against Uefa. That was in March 2019.
Almost a year later 17 February 2020 we ran the piece How could Manchester City have got it so wrong?” in which we questioned their tactics when handling complaints and allegations against them. We found the answer: they didn’t care because they had the media in their pockets.
Now of course Manchester City is a company with a turnover of getting on for 400m euros a year, and my own company is minuscule. But we know, as I think the majority of companies know, that when a complaint is made, no matter how much you disagree with it you take it seriously. The opening line of any response to a suggestion of something being wrong should include a phrase along the lines of “thank you very much for bringing this to my attention”. That sort of notion doesn’t seem to be part of the Manchester City response book.
Instead, they say, “Manchester City Football Club is surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with. The club welcomes the review of this matter by an independent Commission, to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position. As such we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all.” Bit of a grammatical problem with the split infinitive, but we get the idea.
Their bullish nature must in part arise from the way in which Manchester City successfully manipulated media attention of the club last time they were in trouble. In order to understand this better, we might go back to 16 July 2020 when we took a look at how Germany was viewing Manchester City, and there was no doubt that the view there was utterly different from that in England.
As we pointed out then, as Manchester City were accused of serious misdemeanours, their response was to denounce the accusations, their accusers, and the investigations as an “organised and clear attempt to damage the club’s reputation” which either Uefa is part of, or has been taken in by.
They got away with it (although only just, on a technicality, and there has always been the thought that the mistake that Uefa made in running out of time was so stupid that the only possible conclusions were either that Uefa as a prosecutor was not fit for purpose, or that Uefa officials had been bought – although of course we have absolutely no evidence of this at all. The fact that the Premier League has decided to avoid Uefa and take the matter on itself indicates that the League wasn’t too impressed by Uefa’s performance either.
Because the media in England wouldn’t touch the case, English readers didn’t really get the full story on that case but in the article CAS reasons for siding with Manchester City we did use evidence and information provided by European papers to explain what was going on.
We particularly noted that the judgement from Uefa rejected the notion that Manchester City provided the evidence to show they were innocent. Rather the CAS judgement says quite clearly Manchester City not only refused to provide evidence and witnesses but were overtly obstructive, and that there was a legitimate basis to prosecute the club. The prosecution failed because Uefa proceeded too slowly. Uefa argue that wasn’t their fault as the evidence that led to the prosecution arrived too late, but CAS’ rules don’t take this into account.
The CAS report does say for example that in 2012 and 2013 Etisalat did not pay £15m by way of sponsorship of Manchester City as Manchester City reported in its FFP documentation. The money, CAS clearly states, came from the Abu Dhabi United Group. That one bit of information is vital since it states clearly that false accounting was being used ten years ago – and because of the time bar ruling Manchester City got away with it.
Then the court of appeal gave Manchester C another battering over its alleged breaches of the Financial Fair Play rules. One of the judges in July 2021 said that a significant part of the Manchester City legal arguments was “entirely fanciful”. Overall that court commentary was more critical of Manchester City than any of us who take an interest in legal proceedings can ever remember. Sadly the media don’t remember any of it at all!
I’m not trying to cover every single brush with the law that Manchester City have had – but the fact is there have been lots of them. Take the piece on 12 April 2022: Further allegations of Manchester City corruption emerge in Europe or indeed the Daily Telegraph story which stated Man City ‘under investigation for payments to underage players and Roberto Mancini’ in fresh allegations
We might go back to 16 June 2022 and our story La Liga complains to Uefa alleging Manchester City and PSG breach FFP. I might be wrong but I don’t think the UK press made too much of that.
The fact is there has been a lot going on in terms of legal cases and arguments involving Manchester City, which Europe has been reading about but England hasn’t. This time, with it happening in England however, although we are not being given the background by most of our media outlets, we might stand a chance of seeing the whole show.
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