City FFP al­le­ga­tions ex­am­ined by Uefa of­fi­cials

Euro­pean gov­ern­ing body looks into whether the club acted dis­hon­estly

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SOCCER - DAVID CONN

Uefa of­fi­cials are ex­am­in­ing the al­le­ga­tions made against Man­ches­ter City based on the “Foot­ball Leaks” of the club’s in­ter­nal emails, to see whether the club may have con­ducted it­self dis­hon­estly or sought to il­le­git­i­mately evade fi­nan­cial fair play (FFP) rules.

Co-op­er­a­tion is un­der­stood to have been sought from the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and Premier League, who in ef­fect take joint re­spon­si­bil­ity for work­ing with English clubs to meet the re­quire­ments of Uefa’s li­cense.

No ac­tual in­ves­ti­ga­tion into City is un­der­stood to have yet been started, and the club has not been for­mally con­tacted with ques­tions.

Al­le­ga­tions by the Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel, that City cheated and pre­sented a “tis­sue of lies” to com­ply with Uefa’s FFP rules, which lim­ited losses to ¤45 mil­lion (£40 mil­lion) in to­tal in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 sea­sons, fo­cused on a se­ries of de­vices ap­par­ently re­vealed by the emails.

They in­cluded the al­leged pay­ment to City’s then-man­ager, Roberto Mancini, of £1.75 mil­lion for con­sul­tancy ser­vices, from Al Jazira, the Abu Dhabi club owned by City’s owner Sheikh Man­sour bin Zayed, more than the £1.45 mil­lion, ex­clud­ing bonuses and in­cen­tives, Mancini was be­ing paid by City them­selves.

Der Spiegel also al­leged that FFP rules were cheated by Sheikh Man­sour pay­ing the ma­jor­ity of the spon­sor­ship by the Abu Dhabi air­line Eti­had; and by City sell­ing image rights of play­ers to a com­pany, Ford­ham Sports Man­age­ment, to move wage spend­ing off the books.

Al­le­ga­tions

City’s stance, main­tained through­out, was not to re­spond to the sub­stance of the al­le­ga­tions. The club is­sued only one state­ment which it­self al­leged that the emails, re­ported over four days by Der Spiegel, were ob­tained by hack­ing or theft, and pre­sented only part of the pic­ture. “We will not be pro­vid­ing any com­ment on out of con­text ma­te­ri­als pur­port­edly hacked or stolen,” the state­ment said. “. . . The at­tempt to dam­age the club’s rep­u­ta­tion is or­gan­ised and clear.”

Der Spiegel has cited an anony­mous op­er­a­tor of the Foot­ball Leaks op­er­a­tion, given the pseu­do­nym John, whom it quoted say­ing in­ter­nal emails from City, Fifa, Wolves and other clubs and or­gan­i­sa­tions cited dur­ing their se­ries were not ob­tained by hack­ing but from his good sources in foot­ball. The Guardian has not had ac­cess to the Foot­ball Leaks emails or been able to ver­ify them.

Uefa of­fi­cials and the mem­bers of its club fi­nan­cial con­trol body’s in­ves­ti­ga­tory cham­ber have read and dis­cussed the al­le­ga­tions, and are un­der­stood to have formed pre­lim­i­nary views of some el­e­ments from their own knowl­edge.

The ar­range­ment with Ford­ham ap­pears un­likely to have any con­se­quences for City now, be­cause – ac­cord­ing to sev­eral sources with knowl­edge of the process – the club dis­closed the de­tails of it to Uefa at the time, af­ter Uefa asked ques­tions about the fig­ures stated in the ac­counts. Uefa of­fi­cials are un­der­stood to have ex­am­ined the deal then, and de­cided not to al­low it as a re­duc­tion of the wage bill. City had de­clared in their ac­counts £25 mil­lion re­ceived from sell­ing image rights, and were known then to have been in­dig­nant Uefa had not ac­cepted it as le­git­i­mate in­come to off­set the losses.

In­ter­nal emails

The al­le­ga­tion Sheikh Man­sour him­self paid the bulk of the Eti­had spon­sor­ship, which was based on in­ter­nal emails of City of­fi­cials, has been de­nied of­fi­cially by Eti­had. Uefa has never taken is­sue with the Eti­had spon­sor­ship it­self, con­clud­ing that the air­line’s pay­ment was “fair value” for hav­ing its name on the club’s shirt and sta­dium, and was not an ar­ti­fi­cially in­flated sum to dis­guise in­vest­ment by Man­sour.

The al­leged salary ar­range­ments to Mancini, which look to have been a tax-sav­ing mech­a­nism with the money paid in Abu Dhabi to an off­shore ac­count, ap­pear to be the most dif­fi­cult for City to jus­tify. Der Spiegel’s cov­er­age said the con­tract was agreed when Mancini joined City in 2009, so be­fore the FFP rules came into force, and even if it were later re­lated to FFP, a £1.75 mil­lion an­nual re­duc­tion would have had neg­li­gi­ble im­pact on City’s ef­forts to meet the break-even tar­get. It does, how­ever, leave the ques­tion of whether the Mancini con­tract, if it was in­deed struc­tured in that way, was proper ac­cord­ing to City’s gen­eral duty to dis­close all its spend­ing to the FA, Premier League and Uefa.

Al­though City have not com­mented, the fact that they pre­sented their au­dited and signed-off ac­counts with the nec­es­sary dec­la­ra­tions means that by def­i­ni­tion their stance is that they did com­ply with their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and broke no rules. – Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GETTY IM­AGES

Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel has al­leged Man­ches­ter City cheated and pre­sented a “tis­sue of lies” to com­ply with Uefa’s FFP rules.

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