Manchester City became one of the most recognizable names in the English Premier League. They dominated the 2010s thanks to elite coaches and deep squads full of world-class players.
While many complain that the league is imbalanced due to the kind of players the Citizens’ rich owners brought in, they couldn’t do anything. They reigned atop the Premier league table for much of the past decade.
However, allegations arose of the club bending Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules to acquire better players for their Premier League chase. The governing body behind the English top flight reportedly discovered repeated FFP violations.
The frequency of the violations, combined with City’s status as one of the world’s biggest football clubs and brands, easily make this the biggest controversy in Premier League history.
This OKBET Sports piece will look into the allegations’ details, the relevant parties’ reactions, and how the case results will affect the top flight of English soccer moving forward.
The Premier League launched an investigation after a German news magazine, Der Spiegel, published a 2018 expose about the Premier League juggernauts. The piece accused Sheikh Mansour, the club’s owner, of injecting monetary stimuli directly into the club.
UEFA banned the club from Champions League football for two years, but they were able to appeal the ban successfully. They also settled their FFP violations that were exposed in 2014, a move the publication called “weak.”
They stressed that the European footballing authority didn’t know the magnitude of the violations the UAE royalty-owned club committed. City dismissed the accusations, saying that the magazine illegally hacked the team’s emails and published these documents out of context.
The Premier League’s investigation lasted about four years and covered Mansour’s reign as the club owner from 2008 until 2018. The investigation period is an announcement to everyone that they suspect the Sky Blues were quietly siphoning money into the club since the UAE deputy prime minister bought it from Thaksin Shinawatra.
The Manchester City investigation, which lasted for more than four years, found the club guilty of more than 100 violations. Their violations include the inability to provide a clear picture of the club’s financial situation, vague contractual payment terms to players and managers, and their unwillingness to cooperate with the league’s investigators.
The club responded with a statement that showed how the league is ready to cooperate with the investigation. Their PR release used words that rejected allegations of their failure to cooperate with the league’s investigators. The statement said they passed over a “vast amount of detailed materials” and were surprised with the decision.
To better understand the kind of trouble Manchester City finds itself in, it’s important to know the purpose of FFP in professional football.
As professional football became a more lucrative business venture at the turn of the century, several owners became more open to taking risks in the name of on-field success. Several professional football clubs began spending more than they earned, usually buying expensive players to win more games.
Everyone understands that spending more than you make is a terrible business model. Fans of the English game are familiar with the pitfalls of sticking to such a transfer policy.
Portsmouth used to be a Premier League fixture, but terrible transfer decisions eventually had authorities threatening to shut the club down. They eventually found stability, but their current position as League One regulars is far from their heydays as a top-flight club.
Financial Fair Play is in place to help teams ensure they keep themselves afloat in the foreseeable future. UEFA introduced the measure in the 2011-12 season with four key tenets:
- Soccer clubs must be transparent with their earnings and expenditures;
- Teams should be able to operate within their limits;
- Clubs should be able to pay their debts on time and;
- These organizations should be able to thrive as sustainable businesses.
Stadium development costs and expenses for the team’s youth development programs aren’t included in the FFP calculations. This makes it extremely clear that the measure is introduced to stop clubs from recklessly spending to get players they cannot keep long-term.
Aside from keeping the game afloat, FFP gives football leagues a tiny bit of parity. While the league cannot stop teams from buying the best players in the world, it can at least prevent them from building overpowered squads that smaller clubs cannot even try to compete against.
While Manchester City will continue to maintain that they are innocent of these allegations, they’re not the masters of their fate. An independent commission will take charge of the case and determine whether City is guilty of circumventing any FFP regulations.
Their biggest fans can expect gargantuan punishments from the league if they are found guilty. Sky Sports reveal the possible repercussions of their crimes:
The punishments that the independent commission could impose on Manchester City: pic.twitter.com/CsDzCmJ7PF
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 6, 2023
Only some of the sanctions listed would be applied to Manchester City if they did commit financial fraud. However, the severity of their alleged offenses will ensure that they are awarded the harshest punishments.
The most painful punishment would be expulsion from the Premier League. Even the teams relegated from the top flight make at least £100 million a season. Being ejected from the top flight automatically robs them of the opportunity to play Champions League football.
Points suspension may seem like a slap on the wrist for City, but it will hurt their chances of winning the title this season. They need every point to overtake Arsenal, and any dent to their point tally will extinguish their title hopes this season.
The points deduction may be combined with compensations, the inability to register new players, and game suspensions.
Due to the complexity of the allegations, it will take a couple of years before the trials over Manchester City either convict or acquit of their financial misdemeanor. Moreover, it will cast doubt over Pep Guardiola’s future at the club.
The Catalan tactician declared that he would leave the club if its owners and management were caught lying to him. He told The Guardian that he believed his employers’ side when the club was first suspended from Champions League football.
However, the most recent allegations are gaining momentum. If the club gets punished with expulsion from the Premier League, expect most of its top players to look for new homes.
If the possibility of competing for Champions League football is robbed from them, it’s hard to imagine a coach of Guardiola’s caliber staying. He’s too good of a tactician to try and lead City out of the Championship.
Moreover, if these charges are proven, he’ll be the first one out the door. He hates liars, after all.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get cheers or grunts on City’s dilemma. The stronger voices come from parties who are directly involved with the situation.
Five of the Premier League’s Big Six—Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham—are pushing for the harshest punishments should they be found guilty. The clubs also said they would let the legal process determine whether their rival is at fault.
Pundits also shared their two cents on the issue. The Guardian’s Barney Ronay brought up how other leagues look poorly at the Premier League for inflating the transfer market. He claims that if City is guilty of its alleged crimes, the Sky Blues did a great disservice to the Beautiful Game.
However, there have been parties who came to the clubs’ defense. Yaya Toure’s former agent insisted that there weren’t any under-the-table payments given toward the now-Tottenham academy coach.
Vincent Kompany was especially cutting in his defense of the club. The Burnley manager called out how curious the timing of the allegations was. While refusing to comment on the issue, he’s questioning the real motives behind the league’s decision to bring this into the open.
Kompany isn’t the only person who raised their eyebrows when the league decided to push legal action against Manchester City. Some people doubt why the league chose to chase after Manchester City now.
University of Liverpool’s Kieran Maguire points out an interesting tidbit about the case’s timing:
Amazing coincidence that the Premier League, which is lobbying against an independent regulator of football, charges Manchester City for breach of financial rules 24 hours before the government releases the white paper on football governance reform. pic.twitter.com/U8tRxKpIS9
— Kieran Maguire (@KieranMaguire) February 6, 2023
Zack Garner-Purkis wrote a cutting opinion piece that also pointed out that the Premier League has loose ownership qualifications that allow clubs like Manchester City to exist. He’s criticizing how the English game is set up. Oil barons and venture capitalists have turned the Premier League into a big playground due to the league’s lax ownership rules.
The Ringer’s Brian Phillips echoed Garner-Purkis’ arguments in his piece. He wrote that the influx of money may have brought titles to Manchester City. However, it only caused problems for the rest of the league. Other clubs with wealthy owners were also put on blast.
It will take a good while before the legal process concludes, but the damage was done. Whether they like it or not, the club’s fans will be egged on for the team’s (alleged) financial doping.
Now that the floodgates have been opened, the rest of the Premier League will be on notice. Whatever happens after this Manchester City scandal, the league will never be the same.