Manchester City and UEFA: A Tale of Two Futures

How could City’s appeal shape the world of football for years to come?

Following UEFA’s 30 million euro fine and ban from all UEFA competitions for two years, due to a ‘series breach’ of Financial Fair Play rules, Manchester City could set for further punishment. The English Premier League are in the midst of debating a pending points deduction, stripping City of some of their titles in the offending period and there even some rumours indicating the club could be relegated to League Two.

This is all without the potential mass exodus of their best players and manager which could leave City with some serious rebuilding to do. Safe to say, it wasn’t the decision they were hoping for.

They are, of course, going to appeal it with an independent body and, let’s face it, City have the money and lawyers to do so. Not only that, but they have legal grounds too. The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that Omer Riza’s fine should be overturned.

For those not clued up on the ex-Arsenal and West Ham player here’s a short history. In 2008 Riza walked out on Turkish club Trabzonspor. An arbitration panel of Turkish Football Federation was appointed by the Federation’s directors, and they fined Riza 61,000 euros. Fast-forward over ten years and the ECHR have ruled that the panel did not have the necessary independence to pass judgement on his case. As such the judgement was overturned. The same could be said of UEFA’s panel who found City guilty of breaching FFP.

But what would that mean for football? UEFA’s FFP rules have been flouted by many in the past few years, and this sanction was supposed to be footballing’s largest governing body finally cracking down and enforcing their own laws. If City are able to overturn this decision, with the very money they’re at fault for spending in the first place, it massively undermines UEFA’s ability to fine and place restrictions on teams they deem to have breached their rules.

It would also set a dangerous precedent for the other top clubs looking to act with impunity. The fees will rocket, wages paid will no doubt ascend to those paid in China, and football’s bubble will definitely not burst. As long as club’s can be obtained by billionaires, private funds pumped in and the books remain unbalanced it’s going to continue to spiral.

A few years ago, you’d have laughed at the fees bandied about today. Perfectly bang average players are sold for upwards of 20 million pounds and City are a part of that culture. The money they’ve spent under Pep Guardiola on rebuilding their defence and assembling a domestic treble winning team is incredible. If they win their appeal, then they can continue to do so with ease and other teams will follow their example.

Football rests on a knife-edge and is facing its most transformative years. Man City are by no means the first team to be bought by a billionaire with ambition, even in England. Look at Chelsea and the players they hoovered up when Abramovich took charge. Finally we are seeing these types of teams be held to account, but this is by no means guaranteed.

As John Mehrzad, a British sports lawyer, said to the BBC: “The Turkish process [the Riza case] took 10 years, and if you can threaten to get a sanction suspended for that long, and make a mockery of the process, you’d think they’ll be able to cut a deal.”

UEFA can very easily be made a mockery by the fleet of lawyers Man City are going to send their way. This article is by no means going to be the last people will write about this, as the world watches on. Whatever happens here will be felt for years to come.

If the ban is upheld then the money will have to come out of football to some degree or other as teams have to legitimately prove the sources of their income for fear of similar penalisation. If not? Well, you think 222 million euros was a lot for Neymar. How much will Mbappe be in three years, or Haaland, or Sancho?

More than 222 million, that’s for sure.

By Chris King

Photo credit: Cléria De Souza via Flickr

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