When I introduce myself as a Manchester City supporter, I am often met with dirty looks. Perhaps due to the dominance of Manchester City over the last decade, I am accused of being a bandwagon fan. I will reluctantly admit that while there is some truth to this claim, I do not only root for Manchester City because of their results, but also for how they earn them. Under Pep Guardiola, they play a beautiful all-out attacking style of soccer that has upped the tempo of play throughout Europe. However, if we take a deeper dive into the origins of City’s critics, we can see that my team deserved to be both loved and feared.
On the fourth of August, 2008, Sheikh Mansour – the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, who’s family has an estimated net worth of over 1 trillion dollars – purchased Manchester City Football Club for 210 million pounds. Furthermore, Mansour has continued to pour in investments, resulting in losses of over 535 million pounds per year; however, the valuation of his club has since soared to over 2 billion pounds. Over this period, Manchester City has won 4 Premier League titles, including the first-ever English domestic treble with the 2018-2019 FA Cup and EFL Cup. Before Mansour’s acquisition of the team, only 4 teams had ever won the Premier League over the course of almost 20 seasons. So it is clear that City’s victories can purely be attributed to the club’s influx of cash. This data visualization of the net spending of clubs across Europe displays the swiftness of City’s spending increases.
This injection of cash into the club allowed City to purchase the best players available on the transfer market, renovate and expand their stadium to increase their fan base, and even found City Football Group – “an umbrella corporation owning stakes in a network of global clubs for the purposes of resource sharing, academy networking, and marketing.” This allowed Manchester City to explode onto the European soccer scene. For example, in their last Champions League match on Wednesday, February 26th, Manchester City stole a commanding 2-1 lead in the first leg against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabéu.
While City’s incredible level of talent aided them in their victory, perhaps another factor contributed to their will to win. Early this in the month, UEFA announced that Manchester City was to be suspended from the Champions League for the next two seasons and fined 30 million Euros. Furthermore, it is unlikely that any star (especially Messi) will transfer to City following this ban. The club was found to not only have broken financial fair play rules but also to have misled EUFA in their investigation of these violations. According to multiple reports on the scandal, “City were found guilty by UEFA’s club financial control body (CFCB) of having falsely inflated their sponsorship revenues when they made submissions for the FFP compliance process.” These allegations stipulate that Etihad’s (the United Arab Emirates state-owned airline) sponsorship of the club primarily consisted of monetary infusions from Mansour’s investment fund, the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Manchester City has announced that they are appealing UEFA’s decision as they have “irrefutable evidence that the claims are not true”, but multiple reports believe that the decision is unlikely to change. In the New York Time’s chief soccer correspondent Rory Smith’s article on the appeal, he wrote, “For UEFA, it is only a slight exaggeration to say the battle is existential. Defeat would mean effectively admitting that Europe’s biggest, richest teams are now too big to tame, and that the body theoretically in charge of corralling them is, in reality, nothing more than the organizer of the occasional glitzy draw event in Monte Carlo.” This sentence transcends Manchester City’s Champions Leauge bid for the next two seasons, as it will set the precedent on the boundaries between foreign money and European soccer.
As previously exemplified, Manchester City plays incredible soccer. However, as a fan, it is difficult to grapple with the evident hooks of corruption buried in my team. It is apparent that Abu Dhabi United Group is likely sportswashing with this world-class soccer team on behalf of its airlines and oil trusts. While I hope that Manchester City wins the Champions Leauge this year while we still can, I am also willing to accept the punishments in order to eliminate corruption from the beautiful game.
"Ultimately based on our experience and our perception this seems to be less about justice and more about politics."