It is no secret that Manchester City were stung by the new Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules following a few seasons of chronic overspending. City were fined and had a reduced squad size imposed on them for this year’s edition of the continent spanning super tournament, and that, we thought, was that. Apparently not.
News was revealed today that the money City were fined – £50m dropping to £20m if the club complies with regulations this season and next – is to be divided among the other Champion’s League clubs.
This is the point in the article where, no matter what words follow, many will rush to accuse me of being “bitter” and “whinging” and all the rest of those things. That’s fine though, because in this one case I am all of those things. Why? There is one simple reason:
This is unfair. It is deeply unfair.
FFP is an extremely flawed system in the first place. Despite supposedly aiming to make the game fairer by getting closer to financial parity it instead achieves nothing more than entrenching the existing elite, perpetuating their power forever. Whether this was done purposefully is not for me to say. Your cynicism towards it may vary.
None of this is the point however.
City breached the rules as they exist at the current time. Agree or disagree with them on a fundamental level, the club knew what it had to do to meet them. There are strong contextual arguments such as that the club had to meet them this year or be doomed to always be outside of the truly elite, but these miss the point. The rules were broken. City were punished. And that should have been the end of it unless the club failed again this season.
Today’s news that the fine will be spread out among the other Champion’s League clubs is a kick in the teeth.
To not put too fine a point on it, this looks like nothing more than common robbery. Punishing City once indirectly advantages everyone else, as is the point. Taking that tithe and giving it to our direct rivals is a disgraceful move. Under FFP regulations this goes beyond double jeopardy as City are in fact being punished three times:
- Loss of personal earnings;
- Loss of earnings relative to rivals;
- Loss of earnings relative to rivals plus even more free revenue on top.
Karl Heinze Rumenigge, Chairman of the European Clubs’ Association as well as being heavily involved with Bayern Munich, stated that, “It was an agreement between UEFA and the clubs that it was money belonging to the clubs.”
Of course the clubs said that! Why wouldn’t they? Why would they turn down free money? They shouldn’t have been able to decide what to do with it in the first place. Punishing new upstarts and splitting off the profit is what cartels do. This is naked protectionism and the exact, polar opposite of what sport is supposed to be – Competitive. It’s like they aren’t even trying to pretend to care about making things “fair” anymore.
Yes, City jumped up towards the top following heavy investment. Yes, City had a large part to play in inflating wages. Yes, City’s owners have a dubious human rights record. Yes, City are charging the fans more and more money. Yes, City aren’t perfect. But how anyone can look at what’s going on and saying City are destroying football is beyond me.
Football is a closed shop, now more than ever. The irony, of course, is that the same fans who wail and wail about banker’s bonuses and monopolies in the outside world will laugh and laugh at City’s FFP troubles whilst patting the richest clubs on the back. It is not just City that will suffer. It is every club outside the Champion’ League who has just had yet another slight disadvantage piled on them by our glorious leaders above. Pity all the Southampton’s of the future who will never finish high enough in the league to qualify for Europe ever again. The money will stay where it is forevermore.
City broke the rules and were punished. The club took it on the chin and have been making noises about breaking even this season. Compliance is on the cards very soon. This second punishment is unfair and is about nothing but stifling competition.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter