It seems that all sports pages and football forums are discussing the Manchester City CAS verdict. I must admit I haven’t read that many of those that have merely offered an opinion. You’ve all probably seen the messages of things like “RIP FFP” and such like. Will it be the end of FFP? I don’t know is the simple answer. Should it be the end of FFP? Or should that last question be, should it be the end of FFP in its current format? Again, I don’t know.
This post really is about me not being clear on a few things. Like so many others I suppose. Hopefully there will be a full blown narrative made available soon to add much needed meat to the bones to the original CAS statement delivered on Monday.
I think there are many football fans everywhere who would like something a bit more detailed. Something that we can relate to and understand in football speak. Not just a load of legal jargon presented so that only legally minded brains can understand.
I think football fans generally deserve that. I’ve said it often enough, the football fans are the lifeblood of football. They are more than just passionate, replica shirt wearing, beer swilling, knuckle dragging fans looking for ways to while away their weekends. That description by the way is not what I think about football supporters. No, that’s probably how clubs and the officiating bodies see most of us. But anyway, let me scratch my head and put my bafflement out there.
Manchester City CAS Verdict
Before I do, let me give a little bit of background. In summary, on Monday Manchester City had their two year European football ban imposed by UEFA for financial irregularities overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS is often referred to as “sport’s supreme court.”
Was this Manchester City CAS verdict a shock? To many not at all given that UEFA have history in coming unstuck in previous CAS related cases. But, in this particular case, probably because of all the media focus on it, many fans feel there should be a “warts and all” explanation as to what happened exactly. Or, in addition to that, exactly what didn’t happen – and why?
I’m not going to go through chapter and verse. Or anywhere near chapter and verse. Firstly and mainly of course is because I don’t know chapter and verse. And furthermore, I’m not really into making any emotive outbursts where I don’t know the full facts, or anywhere the full facts. Others, of course, have gone full pent with a stream of emotional outbursts, some of which are quite infantile. As an example, a certain celebrity City fan from the music industry springs to mind.
Which brings me on to the questions I have popping up in my head. Here’s a few of the things I’m unsure of.
Manchester City CAS Verdict – My Head Hurts!!!
Am I missing something here? Manchester City as a club and their fans are celebrating as if the CAS verdict found them not guilty of the accusations. Is that what was announced? Manchester City CAS Verdict – “we find Manchester City totally innocent.” I didn’t see that announcement anywhere I must admit. So, I suppose, my first question is:
1/ Were Manchester City found totally innocent of all allegations?
I seem to remember reading that some of the accusations were time-barred. So, some of the allegations fell through the time limit trap door.
But what about a report with time limit restrictions lifted? What then? Which you would think, in the scheme of things, is quite a fundamental issue to make known in footballing terms. Or, for the good of the game. The fact they were time barred in a court of law doesn’t make them irrelevant or unimportant in the eyes of a football supporter.
Are the football authorities and the CAS going to continue to treat the fans as the least important, insignificant, blots on what they perceive to be the real footballing landscape?
If it happens that UEFA screwed up with this time barred issue in the first place when rolling out FFP, then that’s totally down to them. That’s not the fans fault. And as such, the fans do not deserve to be kept in the dark about the full details of the case. For whatever period they occurred.
So, back to the questions and on behalf of football fans everywhere.
2/ Which specific allegations were time barred?
Let me use an example here. The following is an extract from the Der Spiegel pages in their article, “Bending The Rules To The Tune Of Millions” dated 5th November 2018 (full article HERE). Bear in mind, this is Chapter 1 in a sequence of articles produced by Der Spiegel.
This is one of many interesting extracts: “The club and its sponsors were manipulating their contracts. When Chumillas asked his colleague Simon Pearce if they could change the date of payment for the sponsors from Abu Dhabi, Pearce answered in the spirit of Manchester City’s executives: “Of course, we can do what we want.”
This statement was apparently made in 2013 after the end of the 2012/13 season. Is this period time barred? If so, and if this article is true, then the Manchester City CAS verdict doesn’t exactly confirm their innocence does it? That merely shows it was not considered because it was time barred. Or maybe it does prove innocence? Let’s have more information please footballing authorities.
The Der Spiegel articles were very specific and very damning in actual fact. This brings me on to….
3/ Der Spiegel’s Articles And Supporting Information And Were They Admissible In Court?
There has been mention that the information was only obtained because it was hacked from the club’s internal systems. That being so, that would allow another opportunity for Manchester City to continue down the legal route as the information was inadmissible in a court. There’s that “C” word again. Court.
Let’s suppose for one moment that we can take a different view on this. Instead of stating that it is “inadmissible in court” let’s say, make it so that it is “admissible for fans.” You know who I mean. Those people that should matter quite a fair bit in football. But are rarely treated as being of any significance by the footballing authorities. Or the courts for that matter. Not that is down to the courts to think anything at all about fans. But footballing authorities. Come on UEFA, enlighten us. Let us know if those articles and the supporting information contained any truth?
If they did but they weren’t relied upon because of how the information was obtained then, again, the Manchester City CAS verdict does not really make them innocent of any wrongdoings does it ?
Of course there are two possible answers. They are either true or not true. So, playing devil’s advocate, if there was no truth in the articles, then what were Der Spiegel playing at? And what were UEFA up to? (see below). Having said that, there is so much detail, with such a lot of information relating to specific dates and attributable to specific individuals it would have been an incredibly well thought out, MI5-esque, bogus report by Der Spiegel wouldn’t it. So, the fundamental question on behalf of the fans and not the courts is, are the Der Spiegel articles true or not?
Here’s That “C” Word Again
A great assistance in getting to the truth of this answer of course would be to get an honest answer from Manchester City themselves. However, hasn’t their approach from the outset been to take it away from the football fields and straight into the expensive world of the lawyers by effectively saying, “we’ll see you in court.” Yep, yet again there’s that footie fan’s non-friendly, nor easily understood “C” word.
This non-football approach of course seems to fit in with the phrase mentioned above from the Manchester City executive, Simon Pearce, as quoted in the Der Spiegel articles. “We can do what we want.” Or to put it another way, not what is good for the footballing world, or for the benefit of the fans. Just do what you like, when you like. That is, of course, if there is any truth in the article(s)? But there again, is anyone denying their accuracy?
So, over to Manchester City then. They can help out greatly here and shed some light on the whole situation by answering the questions and being co-operative in any enquiry. Here you go then:
4/ Manchester City Will You Help Us Clear This Up And Co-Operate By Answering The Questions?
For the good of the game and the footballing world at large and, of course, to maintain or repair their own credibility if they need to, you would think they would co-operate. To announce to the world, “how dare UEFA wrongly accuse us.”
If they’ve done nothing wrong then what’s wrong with a bit of transparency. For the benefit of the fans. So, making all the relevant information available will help greatly. But, hang on a minute. No they didn’t co-operate. What’s that all about? Why on earth not?
In keeping with the overall gist of this article, let’s keep the “C” word out of it. Surely by co-operating fully, here was the opportunity to put the record straight and move on from this with heads held high. No more ambiguity. No more snide articles by Der Spiegel or anyone else for that matter. Credibility fully intact.
The failure to co-operate meant that City were fined a sum of €30m, which was subsequently reduced to €10m. I think that was a breach of Article 56. I would imagine that any lawyer would have known that a breach of Article 56 would only result in a financial penalty.
Maybe then, the dialogue went along the lines of City being advised to not co-operate? After all, if there is any truth in those articles already mentioned then they are well and truly shooting themselves in the foot aren’t they? Therefore, to the detriment of football generally and to really stick two fingers up to UEFA and fans everywhere, immediately go down the “see you in court” route as there is a great chance the information will be inadmissible in that “C” word.
All in all, if they had nothing to hide, then why not co-operate?
5/ What On Earth Are UEFA All About??
Given that AC Milan and PSG had already pulled UEFA’s pants down by winning their CAS appeals, you would think that UEFA would have double ticked every box going into this 3rd case. Or, to be on the safe side, triple tick the boxes.
Not only that. City have history when it comes to breaching FFP rules. Back in 2014 they accepted a €60m fine for FFP breaches. By the way, two thirds of which was refunded as they complied with UEFA measures on how to conduct operations and finances more efficiently. A bit like receiving a £60 on the spot motoring fine and the policeman dropping you £40 if you run along straight away and pay it over in that Post Office immediately. Again, what’s that all about?
Another club handed a fine in 2014 was PSG. Like Manchester City, a club run by oil rich Middle East owners.
Having already breached FFP rules you would think that UEFA would have been watching both PSG and Manchester City like hawks. Not so. In Manchester City’s case, it was the articles by Der Spiegel in November 2018 that prompted these latest allegations. Or was it?
Basic Audit Planning Hey Nick
I used to work as an auditor and I know that an ex audit days pal of mine will be reading this. Here we have a business that have history of breaking rules and you only take a closer look at them after being prompted by an independent news article some four years later? And again, what’s that all about??
Given that these latest alleged breaches occurred supposedly between 2012 and 2016, what were UEFA doing between 2014 and 2018? By the time UEFA got round to charging City, I would imagine that so much of the key information would have been time barred as it fell outside UEFA’s five year time limit they have implemented.
Manchester City CAS Verdict – And Arsene Wenger’s Well Used Phrase
Ex Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, used the phrase of financial doping a fair bit. In essence, what it means in the world of football is that you simply use money to buy the best players, pay more than your competitors and if necessary also buy their best players. This money could well come from the owner of a sports club who invests their own personal wealth into securing very talented players to better their chances of success. And of course pay them high wages as well. This owner money injection is instead of relying on the revenue the club is able to generate for itself.
Therefore, if there had been any such financial doping going on between 2012 and 2016 so much of that cannot now be reviewed by UEFA. As it is time barred. Yes, City were fined €60m in 2014 for FFP breaches but wasn’t this as a result of their published accounts? It wasn’t as a result of allegedly inflating their income figures in the first place was it? This, of course was highlighted in the Der Spiegel articles in 2018.
At this stage another question pops into my head.
6/ Did UEFA Carry Out Their Own Audit In 2014?
So, did UEFA carry out an audit of Manchester City’s accounts of their own in 2014? If so, then you would expect that the alleged inflated income as reported in 2018 would have been picked up. If there had been any wrongdoings of course. That would also mean, the period between 2012 and 2014 wouldn’t have been time barred at that point. If there wasn’t any wrongdoings discovered, then that would mean that the findings in Der Spiegel’s articles in 2018 were mute.
If UEFA did not conduct their own audit, then why not? Given the newness of FFP and already in the early days, a few breaches had been identified from a few clubs published accounts.
Manchester City accepted the €60m fine without any appeal to either UEFA or to CAS. If they had appealed against this fine, would this have prompted an audit by UEFA? Is it possible that the day a €60m fine arrived actually turned out to be a good day to bury bad news? Bear in mind as well, the €60m was reduced to €20m as City complied with UEFA specified measures. Just a thought with my ‘old’ audit hat on. Thinking out loud so to speak.
I wonder if the measures that UEFA introduced included an instruction that they could “do what they want”?
While On The Football Field – From 2014 Onwards
As fans of both Manchester United and Liverpool know only too well, Manchester City went on to win the title in 2014, 2018 and 2019. And well done to them in doing so. But to return to the question above. Did UEFA carry out a full audit in 2014?
Manchester City CAS Verdict – In Conclusion
No doubt there’s plenty more discussions going on in many more places. My post is not exhaustive at all. It is a post where I’ve emptied my head of a few questions running through my mind. As a football fan, it would be great if we had some real transparency when (or if?) a more detailed report is announced.
And if such a report is forthcoming we may then see that Manchester City are indeed totally innocent as they claim. No issues with timings etc. A follow on to that scenario of course may then support some of the pundits claims. The claims that FFP is dead in the water in its current format. And in some instances it may also support Gary Neville’s critical assertions regarding UEFA. If UEFA continue to come out of this badly, then will the really powerful clubs consider their own Super League?
Moving forward, let’s not forget however that the Premier League’s own investigation is still ongoing. And, as it happens, the Premier League’s investigative powers does not have any time limitations.
This Manchester City CAS verdict has given plenty of food for thought. I just hope that fans everywhere are not left in the dark and again treated like they don’t matter. Furthermore, a transparent report (or reports if you include the Premier League’s) will of course enable all, or some, of the parties involved to keep their integrity intact. At which point it may well be that Manchester City will rightly get the apology that Pep Guardiola requests.
Thanks for reading folks.
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