Fraud at the Ethiad

by Fotis Zafiriou

Should Manchester City be allowed in European Competition?

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UEFA, the European soccer governing body, states that if a team breaks the financial fair play rule—designed to prevent teams from spending more than they earn—that team is to be disqualified from competition. For many fans around the world, it seems as if this rule doesn’t apply to the former Premier League champions and European powerhouse Manchester City. Even with concrete evidence that the club encroached the fair play rule, they still were allowed to play in European competition and only had to pay a small fine.

Right before the quarterfinals of the Champions League, UEFA announced that Manchester City would be banned from the competition for the next two years. What happened? The body claimed that the club broke UEFA’s financial fair play rule, which prohibits any team from spending more money than they earn and is designed to prevent teams from falling into debt. Der Spiegel, one of the largest newsgroups in Germany, was one of the first whistleblowers regarding City’s rule-breaking. Der Spiegel exposed emails that showed City breaking the financial fair play rule. Specifically, the emails provided evidence of the club inflating the value of a sponsorship deal, thus allowing them to claim more money than they had. These emails showed that Sheikh Mansour, City’s billionaire owner, had paid for most of the $67.5 million sponsorship deal with the airline company Etihad. According to these emails, Etihad had only provided around $8 million to the deal that City had claimed to receive. Since this overvalued sponsorship deal falsely showed that the club possessed more money than what they owned, Manchester City was able to spend more, albeit seemingly with their own money.

After these leaks were released, Manchester City decided to remain quiet and low-profile. They refused to speak to Der Spiegel, UEFA, and any media platform that attempted to cover City’s leaked emails. However, City did announce their request for an appeal. In their official statement, City said that UEFA’s process that led them to be punished was “flawed” and biased. Ultimately, City won their appeal after the UEFA declared that the club was protected under another set of rules to the disgust of many soccer fans around the world. Those rules stated that if the team had not broken the rule in five years, the club was safe from a ban although they were fined 10 million euros. UEFA stated that this fine was an acknowledgment that City had indeed breached rules. Even though UEFA conceded that City had broken the financial play rule, a legal loophole ultimately allowed the club to escape their rightful punishment.