Financial Fair Play is a UEFA security racket – this is the payback time of clubs that hate Manchester City
There will not be much sympathy for Manchester City in football. They have misled UEFA and its financial control body.
They inflate figures, mislead about income streams, and the size of their punishment, the suspension of European competition, the fine of £ 25 million, is a confirmation of the seriousness of this violation.
If this case is proven after an appeal, City has done wrong, that is undeniable. Yet they have done wrong against the rules that exist to protect a privileged elite; set to prevent unexpected trips to the top of the football pyramid. You know, the interesting things.
There will be little sympathy for Manchester City after their Champions League ban
Financial Fair Play was corrupt from birth and is designed to protect a privileged elite
It is possible to acknowledge City’s misconduct, but still have nothing but disdain for the system that found them guilty. For the secret briefings, the pressure on UEFA to foreclose their primary competition for the select few.
Financial Fair Play was corrupted from birth by those at the top, transformed into the most naked protectionism. It had to be about debts, but in the end it imposed restrictions on investments from owners. A club full of debts, such as Manchester United, fully meets; a club without debts, such as City, is not.
The money that City initially threw at their project was to try in the beautiful castle of football before the establishment opened the drawbridge.
Leicester is a much better run club than Manchester United, but United can still catch up with its best players every summer. Harry Maguire last year, in all probability James Maddison in a few months.
Why? Financial fair play. That is how it works. It is meant to cement a handful of elite clubs in place and exclude the rest, unable to grow, to present a continuing challenge, even if they want or are successful. Honesty is just selling. Do not be fooled. It was never meant to be honest.
A club full of debts, such as Manchester United, fully meets; a club without debts, such as City, is not
It is no wonder that David Gill and his allies graft so hard into the UEFA’s corridors of power
Consider the models of Manchester City and Manchester United, the way in which those clubs are run, the investment in infrastructure, in the environment, the women’s game, consider the quality of football, the relative success recently.
What is the better football club? The one with a two-year ban on Europe, or the one who benefits from their absence?
No wonder David Gill and his allies are so hard at grafting in those corridors of power, no wonder Ed Woodward spends his time on the day-to-day management of the European Clubs Association. Ferran Soriano, chief executive officer of Manchester City, thought he was standing in line for a place in the ECA.
Then there was a small pushback and suddenly he was not, unlike board members at United, Arsenal and Liverpool – the traditional red alliance that controls English football and holds meetings to which rivals have not been invited.
United and Liverpool have even been allowed to visit Richard Scudamore’s successor in the Premier League. It seems that some clubs are more equal than others.
Manchester City will now refer their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the first time it is heard by a body that is not affiliated with UEFA. The rulers of European football have brought this case, heard this case and have now been sentenced.
Manchester United and Liverpool were allowed to use Richard Scudamore’s successor in the Premier League
At CAS, a list of independent arbitrators is provided, with City choosing one, UEFA another, plus a CAS selection, to form the threefold commission.
The appeal is likely to be heard soon, because any delay would bring the Champions League of next season into chaos. City will certainly file an order against this sentence if CAS is unable to hold its hearing before the start of next season.
It will remain a bitter dispute, a fact that City made clear last night. “In December 2018, the UEFA principal investigator publicly previewed the outcome and the sanction he intended to be imposed on Manchester City before an investigation was started,” the City statement said.
“The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked UEFA process that he led meant that there was little doubt about the result he would deliver.”
A cynic would further speculate that the reason why the UEFA sentence is so strong – a prohibition for two seasons – is to allow room at the professional stage. Even if CAS sympathizes with City and halves the sentence, the club is banned for another year. If they had been banned for 12 months, arbitrators would have had a binary choice.
But apart from the legal process and possible developments there, this remains a hugely harmful punishment for the city. If the established elite wanted to ruin them and the Sheikh Mansour project – and have no doubt about it – it really couldn’t be better.
No one in City can say with certainty how the prospect of two years outside of Europe and a limited budget will lie with Pep Guardiola. He has insisted that he should serve a fifth year next season, but will he now have the same appetite to work with a significant disability?
The European ban is the gift that continues to give to City’s rivals. Without the income stream from the Champions League, to remain compliant with FFP, their transfer budget will be greatly reduced this summer, at a time when it is clear that Guardiola must significantly rebuild his team.
Players like David Silva are retiring, others are reaching the end of their careers, while expensive recruits, including John Stones, are not meeting expectations. City needs major improvements in central defense, central midfield and more support in the forward line for Sergio Aguero.
Two years without European football can have an impact on Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling
The prospect of two years without European football can also influence the career of key players such as Raheem Sterling or Kevin De Bruyne, who are targeted by the same big European clubs that have so strongly agitated for the punishment of City. Tidy, right?
When City first received a £ 50 million fine from UEFA for financial breaches in 2014, the main reason for accepting the fine was fear of reputational damage. That if the case took longer, the uncertainty and negative publicity would have a longer impact on City’s affairs than a quick settlement, no matter how financially painful. Yet that is the situation in which they are now.
It is impossible to talk to agents or clubs about potential recruitment without knowing the club’s financial capacity in the next two years.
City might find recruitment difficult without being able to offer Champions League football
Guardiola, or a replacement, cannot be presented with a coherent business plan – beyond an unattractively worse scenario – until this is resolved. Say Guardiola wants to leave and City is aiming for Mauricio Pochettino as his replacement.
What can they tell him about next season, or the year after? What is his budget, what would be a realistic reconstruction project, given the limitations?
Leicester and Sheffield United, even Wolves, have shown that success is not just about transfer spending, but that the City project requires forward speed. They have no known name, such as Manchester United or Liverpool. A mid-table city found recruitment as difficult as when the project started.
That is how FFP works. Indeed, it has worked beautifully for those who came up with it, that it has formed the established elite. It has achieved its purpose to protect those clubs that legally see a place at the top table as their place. All those encounters, all those briefings, all that skulduggery that is completely legal, at least it was not in vain.