MANCHESTER City’s ownership group is so rich their net worth cannot be measured. It’s so vast and gross and absurd that it is, in essence, too fluid for evaluation.
To combine such a ludicrous result of capitalism with what is more or less the organisation of games played out by grown men on the weekend, it can all start to get properly absurd quite quickly.
If not curtailed.
Few weeks ago Manchester City copped a proper whack from the continental governing body UEFA, for misappropriating their compliance to ‘Financial Fair Play’, something I’ll get to shortly.
For their misdemeanour, they were expelled from any European club competitions for two seasons and fined €30 million. As a club, nowadays anyway, of some repute, the fine was non consequential but the exclusion from Champions League football is massive. And potentially the straw that breaks the back of football’s camel as we have always known it.
Financial Fair Play was a measure brought in to stop the richer becoming richer and the rest overspending their means in order to keep their head above water, on and off the pitch.
Truth be told the elite of European football is unlike any other sport in the world. There aren’t any real tangible in-competition measures, like here or in the States for example, to reign in the big dogs and keep things from snowballing.
If you’re good enough, and have the cash, come right through, the world is your oyster.
So as sport all over the world has become more and more professional, this gave the biggest football clubs greater scope to extrapolate advantage after advantage, and now what do we have, borderline domination by very few of Europe’s clubs that are only destined to get stronger and stronger from here.
The situation had become exponential, and thus we got Financial Fair Play. You must submit your books to UEFA and prove that you are spending within your means, anything beyond that would be punishable.
So City faked their books a bit, supposedly. But aside from taking this ruling to CAS, in order to have this thrown out, or at least dismissed by ruling FFP is unruly in the first place, this might cause chaos that UEFA has certainly by doing so put themselves very much at risk.
Man City is run by money to make more money. In reality so is Real Madrid, and Manchester United, and Juventus, and PSG. Not Portsmouth, not Dinamo Zagreb, not Perth Glory.
There are by my rulings 16 or so elite clubs that stand above all others. And because things are already out of control that gap widens not narrows with every season.
Therefore, if UEFA is going to come down hard on Man City, where the power sits really with them and their rich mates, the risk of breakaway has never been higher.
If Man City can’t play in the UEFA-run European comps, then they’ll invite their mates to forgo their places and join them in something separate. Because they have the power, they have billions of fans worldwide, UEFA ain’t got anything on the combined resources and pull of those 16.
And thus the dillema. Where is this all heading? Has the Man City ruling brought this all to attention and something seismic is upon us? Will Barcelona and Liverpool soon never play in the Champions League again? Will the automatic European qualifications in the Premier League remain the top six places, except for any of Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool, because they go off and play their own thing instead?
Miguel Delaney wrote a wonderful piece in the Independent last month How modern football became broken beyond repair where he noted the state of the game in Europe is on a knife’s edge, and that something, soon, has to give.
“”We don’t want too many Leicester Citys,” These were the words spoken by a senior figure from the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs, in the kind of high-end London hotel you can easily imagine.
“Football history suggests fans like big teams winning… A certain amount of unpredictability is good, but a more democratic league would be bad for business.””
Manchester City has its date with CAS, and who knows, maybe CAS finds that the allegations don’t hold up. Maybe they rule that FFP is rubbish to be found guilty of, who knows. City gets to play in the Champs League after all and we just had a hot mess for five minutes; play on.
But what seems most apparent is that this is an ignorantly inadvertent poke in the eye to one-sixteenth of the continent’s power union, who already long for a chance to run their own show, play each other far more often than they do now, and avoid rubbish uneventful fixtures against Small Town FC and Soon-to-be-Bankrupt Rovers.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have made it well known that other than knockout Champions League and domestic league fixtures against one another, they hate the rest of their typical season’s matches.
All it takes is a banned Man City, a gutsy Juventus and a couple others to join the Spanish giants, and before you know it the Champions League knock out stages will be Benfica, Celtic and Zenit St Petersburg, which no-one will be watching.
Because all of the football fan’s eyeballs, money and interest will be in whatever tournament has PSG playing Liverpool.
The super clubs rule. Back to Delaney:
“a small group of super-wealthy clubs are now so financially insulated that they are winning more games than ever before, by more goals than ever before, to break more records than ever before.
They are stretching the game in a way that has caused the entire sport to transform and shift”
Go look at Deloitte’s Money League paper that they release annually. It’s the same dozen or so clubs leading the way for revenues, and their performance financially only improves year on year.
Then cross-reference that with who wins the domestic league titles in the big leagues, or who always makes the Champs League knockout phase. Then see if those same clubs top the Facebook and Twitter numbers for likes and followers. Funnily enough its all the same.
There’s no gap, no exception; more or less there’s no longer any leg to stand on or escape from it all.
The Swiss courts might inevitably come out in favour of Financial Fair Play, but that will only be a small battle won, UEFA is destined to lose this war, its just too far gone.
Stay woke — the Financial Fair Play decision by UEFA might just be the catalyst for Europe’s elite to play a Financial Power Move.