Sunday, July 21, 2024

115 and now this …

Just when you thought you couldn’t dislike Man City anymore than you already do, news has emerged of their ‘legal assault‘ on the Premier League.

The club with 115 charges levelled against it by the same organisation are, in essence, demanding financial compensation because they say they have been denied revenue/income because of associated party transaction rules. These rules, voted on by all the clubs in the Premier League, are to prevent sponsors linked with club owners from paying over the odds. A ‘fair market value’, has to be assessed.

So, as an example: Imagine I am a nation state or an oligarch with limitless billions at my disposal. I buy Arsenal. In order to provide Arsenal with income it can use to spend on transfers and, in particular, wages/compensation for players and staff, I have a company in my portfolio which then becomes a sponsor of the club. Except this company signs a deal which pays far more than any other company would, and it’s basically just a way to funnel cash into Arsenal without it being explicitly from the pockets of the owner.

But Man City, who already have 115 charges to contend with, are suggesting this is unfair. Not that they have ever done anything like that, by the way, but they are claiming ‘discrimination’ and that they are subject to the ‘tyranny of the majority’. From The Times article (£) yesterday:

City argue that sponsors linked to club owners — City’s are in Abu Dhabi — should be allowed to determine how much they want to pay, regardless of independent valuation. Four of City’s top ten sponsors have ties to the United Arab Emirates, including their stadium and shirt sponsor, Etihad Airways.

Using a word like tyranny is obviously fairly loaded and City, with 115 charges set to be decided on in a hearing in November, aren’t above a bit of that themselves. Again, from The Times:

City argue that the present rules will limit their ability to buy the best players and force them to charge fans more for tickets. They say they may also have to cut spending on youth development, women’s football, and community programmes.

Which is, of course, little more than a way to play the victim and issue emotive threats. Everyone knows City can already buy the best players, there was nothing to stop them bringing in Erling Haaland, for example, and there’s no reason they can’t continue their current spending on youth, women or community programmes. The dictionary definition of tyranny is: ‘cruel and oppressive government or rule’, which seems applicable here if the owners decide to oppress the ‘minority’ elements of their own club – not least because it’s being done out of spite towards the Premier League rather than any kind of necessity.

The Premier League, by the way, they just keep winning. I saw one Man City account yesterday triumphantly bleating about how their club was taking on ‘The Premier League cartel’, which really is as ignorant and depressing as it gets. There is no cartel in this context, because there is no collusion that is preventing City from success. You can’t rail against a cartel when you have won 6 of the last 7 Premier League titles. You are the cartel.

So Man City, with their 115 charges – and a history of UEFA charges which were overturned not because of a finding of innocence but due to time constraints as much as anything – have now embroiled the Premier League in a vast legal action. Remember, when those UEFA charges were brought, City’s chairman is quoted as saying, “… he would rather spend 30 million on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue them for the next 10 years.”

So, with that in mind, it’s hard not to think that part of this legal action is designed to stretch the resources of the Premier League’s own legal department, ahead of the independent hearing November. And ultimately, what City want is to be able do whatever they want financially, without any oversight, and in a way which will skew an already barely competitive landscape even further in their favour.

As I said, they’ve won 6 of the last 7 titles. This season an Arsenal side won more games in a season than the Invincibles, and we still didn’t do quite enough to win the title. Liverpool went through a season losing just once, and didn’t win it. If City can sponsor themselves via their owners for limitless amounts, there would just be no point in anybody even trying anymore. Maybe Newcastle, whose owners have even more cash at their disposal, might give them a run for their money (no pun intended), but the last vestiges of sporting integrity and competitiveness will be gone from England’s top flight.

What City are doing here is an existential threat to the Premier League as we know it. And look, we know it’s far from perfect, and maybe this is simply a consequence of allowing the drive for endless revenues and riches to be at the heart of the Premier League since its inception. When you allow the likes of Roman Abramovich in, there’s no shutting the stable door. The horse has well and truly bolted.

Personally speaking, nothing about City and what they’ve done has ever resonated with me. The project, the club, the manager, even the great players – it all leaves me cold. I don’t respect it for a second, and I never will. But it’s one thing being able to dismiss their success as sterile and get on with your day, but something else entirely when a club with 115 charges levelled against them by the Premier League, is suing that very same organisation because they say the rules aren’t fair. The rules they definitely didn’t break by the way, but ones they don’t feel should apply to them.

What a mess. What a depressing, inevitable, grotty, dismal, contemptible mess.

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