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FFP was not made to stop City from competing … but it is not clear how they have such an expensive team

Financial Fair Play was not meant to stop Manchester City from competing at the highest level … but what is less clear is that despite this, they have collected the most expensive team in global football history

  • The theory is that FFP was adapted to the ambitions of noble Sheikh Mansour
  • The objectives of FFP were slightly more everyday than those of Machiavellian
  • Man City is under the guidance of one of the most talented coaches of all time
  • They have also captured 10 major trophies in the 11-year Sheikh Mansour era

It is a frequently repeated or factually inaccurate mantra – usually quoted by fans of Manchester City and the club’s cheerleaders – that Financial Fair Play was conceived by a “cartel” of “corrupt” and established “big clubs,” specifically to prevent that City competed at the highest level.

This protectionist system was, according to the theory, mainly focused on the noble football lambs of the Sheikh Sheikh Mansour, but also on the Paris Saint Germain in Qatar.

What is less clear in this chaos is how City nonetheless, with FFP present for ten years, has assembled the most expensive team of players in global football history under the guidance of one of the most talented coaches of all time, and sacked 10 large trophies in the Mansour era.

FFP was not introduced to stop Manchester City from Sheikh Mansour from competing

FFP was not introduced to stop Manchester City from Sheikh Mansour from competing

It could be argued that this is not particularly effective, and that the dastardly limiting effects of FFP are less than claimed.

Away from la-la-land, the roots of FFP were actually planted in the mid-to-late Noughties, before Manchester City was even a twinkle in the eyes of a billionaire Sheikh, and well before Qatar bought PSG.

The goals were a little more everyday than that of Machiavellian. Among other things, they had to encourage clubs to remain solvent, to pay their bills on time, and in some cases to protect clubs against the threat of financial collapse if a sugar daddy ran away.

The architects were not a cartel, but in principle eight independent experts under the chairmanship of a former Belgian Prime Minister, Jean-Luc Dehaene. One of the experts was the late Brian Lomax, the much admired founder of the Supporters’ Trust movement in Great Britain.

The Manchester City of Pep Gaurdiola has collected a total of 10 trophies in the Mansour era

The Manchester City of Pep Gaurdiola has collected a total of 10 trophies in the Mansour era

The Manchester City of Pep Gaurdiola has collected a total of 10 trophies in the Mansour era

Others include a German academician and economist, Egon Franck; an Italian academic with a background in accounting, Umberto Lago; and a French lawyer, Yves Wehrli.

Lomax told me back in 2010 as they debated how to formulate FFP, how he would like to tackle the debt, but legally it would be difficult to enforce. They eventually came up with a licensing system that encouraged good practice, allowed for unlimited spending on stadiums and other facilities, academies, youth development, women’s football and community projects, and allowed “donor financing” on top, within limits.

The break-even requirement was the most controversial element of FFP: clubs spend just a few tens of millions more per cycle of three years more than they earned.

Leicester has shown that the windfall of the city is not necessary to grow to Europe organically

Leicester has shown that the windfall of the city is not necessary to grow to Europe organically

Leicester has shown that the windfall of the city is not necessary to grow to Europe organically

But nevertheless, all clubs in Europe, including Manchester City, have signed up and agreed to adhere to FFP. The majority adhered to the rules; others tried to undermine them as they could.

The finances of top clubs across Europe transformed from combined £ 1.4 billion annual losses in 2011 to gains of £ 500 million by 2017.

And numerous clubs on the continent that have never been anywhere near the windfall of the city, from Leicester and Tottenham in England to Getafe in Spain and Atalanta in Italy have managed to outdo their weight at home and grow organically to Europe.

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