The Timing of The FFP Decision (Part 1)

By Mike Long (@boltfromtheblu)

The timing of the recent New York Times article regarding the decision by UEFA to move Manchester City’s case to its upper chamber and UEFA’s subsequent announcement on Thursday seems to be anything but coincidental as we shall see and may vindicate the view that the decision was rushed and failed to follow due process.

UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) has 2 chambers.

There is the Investigatory Chamber (IC) at the lower level run by Yves Camille Désiré Leterme (58) – former PM of Belgium from 2009-2011.

There is also the Adjudicatory Chamber presided over by José Narciso da Cunha Rodrigues (78), a Portuguese jurist and judge at the European Court of Justice.

Colin Savage (@prestwichblue) compares these two chambers as akin to the UK Magistrates’ Court and The Crown Court.

The IC does indeed have some punitive power but this does not extend to the more severe penalties such as a Champions’ League ban which can be handed down by the AC.


Financial Fair Play (FFP) was first mooted in 2009 and took effect from the 2011-12 financial year.

The 2011-12 & 2012-2013 periods were the first two to be assessed by UEFA for FFP.

As we know, Manchester City failed this first assessment.

The crux of the UEFA case seems to be that the Etihad, Aabar & Etisalat commercial deals were majority funded by parties other than those particular companies, although it’s not clear who those parties were. The speculation is that one of these parties may have been The Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG).

Some evidence suggests City felt sure they’d pass FFP at the first attempt as they had worked closely with UEFA, but were in effect duped either by malevolence or misfortune.

City seem to have been led to believe that amounts relating to player wages prior to 2010 would not be taken into consideration.

However UEFA allegedly performed an 11th hour U-turn when City’s backs were turned resulting in their failure to comply.

This perhaps was the beginning of rather sour relationships between City and UEFA and may have led to the bad blood evidenced in the quote gleefully cited by Miguel Delaney in his most recent piece where Khaldoon Al Mubarak was alleged to have exclaimed that “he would rather spend 30 million on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue them for the next 10 years.”

In the light of this apparent maneuver by UEFA, many readers may have sympathy with that particular sentiment.

Delaney, an otherwise sound journalist, has simply failed to take account of the context. And why would he? This would require a degree of sympathy for the fact that there are two sides to every story. Villains make for better stories.

In May 2014 (significantly, five years ago) UEFA published its sanctions.

Club’s transfers were limited to £49m net in next window. City had their playing squad reduced to 21 (of which eight had to qualify as “homegrown”) and the club had to “take the pinch” of what amounted to a 60 million Euro fine although much of that fine was returned for good behavior in subsequent years.

City have been considered to have complied with FFP ever since.

So far so good.

However with City’s unparalleled success, this has never stopped journalists like Duncan Castles from guessing that there would still be trouble ahead for City.

He and others appear to have assumed City must have pulled a fast one on UEFA to escape with such a relatively light punishment and began to scrutinise every public financial transaction by City ever since –  from the acquisition of new full-backs for exorbitant fees in Guardiola’s second season through to the expansion of the City Group worldwide.

Castles and other journalists appeared to buy hook line and sinker Arsene Wenger’s ire at what he famously labelled “financial doping” and even though the City project clearly benefited the East Manchester landscape with much needed development, the construction of The Etihad Campus with its world-beating facilities doubtless excited a huge amount of envy.

From there, these journalists began to pay particular attention to City’s importing of foreign youth and the charge soon began to focus on when or whether these youngsters would ever break into the City first eleven.

However despite strict confidentiality rules, it appears that there has been a leak at UEFA’s CFCB unearthed by Tariq Panja who intimates in the recent NYT article (and four days before the official announcement) that City’s case would be moved to the AC and that the transfer ban, seemingly loudly called for by journalists on The Transfer Window Podcast for example, was basically a fait accompli.

Journalists from around the UK slathered at the prospect of such a public humiliation for Manchester City.

Part 2 Will Follow Shortly


The opinions represented here are solely those of the author and in no way represent the views of Manchester City FC or any other individual.