The loan of Frank Lampard to the Etihad stadium has been demonstrably beneficial on the field, with the former England midfielder’s seven goals leaving him the team’s third highest scorer. However, off the field the move has invited investigation into Manchester City’s financial structure by UEFA, who aim to preserve their authority and fairness within the sport.
Owned by the same parent company, City Football Group, the complexities surrounding the move has prompted greater examination of how Manchester City’s monetary structure might subvert Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, rules set in place in an effort to preserve and protect fairness and financial responsibility in football.
Impelled by the Lampard saga, UEFA have sought to protect the integrity of their FFP laws by exploring whether the establishment of two newly-installed subsidiary companies, City Football Marketing Ltd. and City Football Services Ltd., have allowed Manchester City to underreport outgoing cash flow for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Having been fined £49 million last year as a result of FFP attention, City had appeared to heed their deterrents, halving their outgoings and seeming well on their way to a financially responsible level, concurrent with UEFA regulations. However, the revelation that City Football Group’s newly founded subsidiaries were running with operational costs of £36.7 million – including 135 members of staff supposedly shed from City’s wage bill who were simply moved laterally – and posting a combined deficit of £25.9 million, has called those figures into question and, pleasingly, prompted UEFA into action. With these facts suggesting that City Football Group might be altering the appearance of their finances to seem in line with the laws in place UEFA have been encouragingly resolute in their implementation of FFP by calling for City to assuage these concerns.
The ongoing investigation is of paramount importance to the future of football, in that the enforcement of FFP protects fairness and parity, monitors the fiduciary duty of care intrinsic to modern football and preserves the authoritative position of UEFA, which is only maintained through the enforcement of rules it sets in place. In the case of FFP, which aims to manage spending in a bid to rein in what President Michel Platini called “financial doping” and the creation of unsustainable debt, UEFA aim to ensure clubs spend within their means, while also promoting competitiveness in both domestic European contests by precluding teams from overspending and stockpiling players. In confirming that Manchester City are fulfilling the requirements of these rules UEFA reinforce their authority as a governing body, taking the initiative to implement their rulings and providing a strong example to other teams.
Further questions around City’s expenditure are likely to arise with the arrival of Wilfried Bony from Swansea for £28 million. Owned by wealthy businessman and deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, City has seen this season’s spending in the transfer market alone reaching a reported £83 million.
As the investigation into Manchester City’s finances continues, a unique opportunity presents itself for UEFA. In taking whatever action is ultimately deemed necessary, UEFA preserves fairness in football, presenting increased opportunities for more frugal sides by ensuring all spending is done manageably. In enforcing regulations that ensure financial responsibility UEFA protect the future of football teams whose fanbases are dependent on the actions of their owners. With the spectres of the likes of Leeds and Blackpool, whose overspending has seen them face significant monetary challenges, UEFA has realised and acted on the need to safeguard the longstanding institutions of football from overzealous and unrealistic spending.
In maintaining its own reputation as an authoritative entity, implementing its own rules and making certain they are followed, UEFA aims to preserve the integrity and the subsequent future of football.
How might football be productively aided by a potential UEFA ruling on Manchester City’s approach to FFP?