Things are moving quickly against Manchester City. After a report earlier this week that the back-to-back Premier League champions could face a ban from the Champions League, the New York Times reports that a ruling is imminent. All of this because Manchester City, the poster boys for the current financial doping era of world soccer, ran afoul of FIFA’s ineffectual financial regulations.
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has been investigating City for months, after Football Leaks released emails detailing City’s ... creative efforts to circumvent Financial Fair Play guidelines. The leaks, detailed by German newspaper Der Spiegel, revealed evidence of City flagrantly wiping their ass with the FFP rules with underhanded accounting practices meant to disguise where the club’s money was coming from.
UEFA’s investigation has now advanced to the point that the investigatory team, led by former Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme, has reportedly asked UEFA to levy a one-season ban from Champions League play. City have professed their innocence in a statement released today that reads in part:
Manchester City is entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body.
The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC to the Chamber.
The decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process and there remain significant unresolved matters raised by Manchester City FC as part of what the Club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed, and hostile process.
Man City, and especially the UAE royal family whose tyrannical oil-and-blood money funds the club, aren’t the good guys here, but neither is UEFA. This instance of FFP policing, like most of the highest profile cases, is an example of how FFP is dumb, and serves mostly to make it difficult for the nouveau riche to challenge the game’s historical nobility.
For the most part—though there are exceptions—there is nothing wrong with a club, in this case City, having rich owners who want to spend obscene amounts of their own money in order assemble a world-class roster. Spending is, after all, the only way to become (and stay) great in this sport, and the main thing separating City’s transfer budget from Real Madrid’s is that Madrid got their riches long enough ago for people to just accept it as “deserved.”
If a club has the money, they should be allowed to spend it—a simple conclusion made impossible under UEFA’s decision to make it illegal for no good reason. City haven’t done anything actually nefarious or morally reprehensible here, only tried to further invest in the club to build the strongest team possible.
What trips people up about this specific deal is the fact that City’s owner’s money is ill-gotten and dirty, and comes from the same source that funds a morally reprehensible sovereign state—things that are indeed gross and bad. But that City’s money is itself dirty is separate from what City should or should not be allowed to do with that money. The confusion of the two—that City’s money comes from a bad place and that City are bad for using that money to get better—is behind much of the moralizing tone behind the response to these mooted FFP sanctions.
By all means, hate Manchester City all you want—for their play or their status as the new Premier League juggernaut or their owners’s deplorable reasoning for investing in the team in the first place. But don’t pretend that UEFA is taking some brave stand against them by sifting through their deposit slips and crying foul.