Financial Doping Finally Catches up with Mega-Rich Football Club

In 2008, Manchester City Football Club went from the outhouse to the penthouse when Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bought the team for Euro 150 million. In over a decade, the owner has directly plunged Euro 1.3 billion of his family’s oil money into the club to build it into one of the world’s top teams. From buying some of the best players and coaches in the world to upgrade the club’s facilities, Mansour (who is said to have only watched one match live in-stadium) has single-handedly funded the club’s trophy winning. The trophy winning could be about to end, at least for a short period, as the club has been hit with a two-year Champions League ban. Football fans are anticipating Manchester City’s last 16 tie versus Real Madrid in the competition. Punters can use this bonus to wager on the team they believe will win the last 16 first leg.

Why are Manchester City banned from the Champions League?

Manchester City have been found guilty by UEFA (football’s governing body in Europe) for financial doping. Mansour and the club’s executives are accused of covering up a paper trail in which the owner directly funded the club through his various business interests. The funds were disguised as sponsorship deals allowing the club to usurp the Financial Fair Play rules that are used to prevent financial doping.

The money funneled into Manchester City have led them to win silverware although the biggest prize of the Champions League trophy still alludes them. After this season, that trophy will be one the Cityzens are unable to compete for. The club are currently under a two-year ban although that could be reduced or eliminated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport upon appeal.

FFP rules state:

“Clubs must balance their books over the course of three years. Income needs to be generated by the club, including for example matchday takings, TV revenue, advertising, sponsorship, player sales and prize money.”

The rule was instituted to prevent clubs from financial doping courtesy of mega-rich owners. It is something that could now open French team Paris Saint-Germain up for an investigation as well.

Are Manchester City guilty?

Two statements were made by Manchester City executives to indicate that the club are guilty of financial doping. The first is after the ruling, one Manchester City executive stated a two-year ban was what they expected. Therefore, if it was expected, they must have known the rules were broken.

The second statement came from Mansour himself, although it was relayed through other sources. The owner, who has rarely ever heard the word ‘no’, is alleged to have stated he would “rather spend Euro 30m on the 50 best lawyers” and sue UEFA than accept he did anything wrong.

The effects of the two-year Champions League ban could wreck Manchester City for the next decade. The club could lose manager Pep Guardiola and many of their top players who want to play for teams competing in the Champions League. The knock-on effect would also mean it is difficult to recruit players.

Of course, the CAS could scrap the ban, which is possible, making UEFA and FFP utterly powerless. If the ban is held up, then a new precedent will have been set and other clubs could be punished in the future.