IS THE ETIHAD EMPIRE ABOUT TO CRUMBLE?
If there ever was a period when no one wanted to support Manchester City, it would appear that this is it. For a club that is shy of a popular fan base like her contemporaries in the English Premier League and whose intimidating success has created more enemies than friends all through the length and breadth of England, a foul against the authorities sounds like good riddance. Coupled with their inconsistent form in recent times, the exit of João Cancelo, adjudged one of the best full-backs in the world, and rumours of more departures, it looks as though Guardiola’s Etihad empire is gradually falling apart.
Since the news broke that Manchester City had violated the financial fair play rules, there has been quite a stir among football fans. It appeared to be exactly what rival fans had been hoping for all along. Following a four-year investigation, City was charged with numerous violations of financial rules, and if proven, they could face points deduction and even expulsion from the league. There were even speculations in some quarters that they might be stripped of their Premier League titles, to the delight of the fans of rival clubs who came second for each season that City won and are already anticipating being beneficiaries should this materialize.
This is not the first time City has been investigated by football authorities for a financial breach. In February 2020, Manchester City came under scrutiny by the authorities, when they were found guilty of “serious breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations.” This earned them a ban from European competitions by UEFA, which was later overturned on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Financial fair play regulations are made by the football governing body to provide a level playing field in the monetary sense. The rationale behind this concept is to rein in arbitrary spending by clubs owned by moguls, force clubs to spend within their means or what they can afford, pay their outgoing debts in a timely manner, and make clubs sustainable, long-term businesses. According to Bleacher Report, “the essence behind the idea, of course, is to rule out the long-term effect of the sugar daddy owner, the rich kid plaything, buying players with oil, and to prevent future occurrences of teams falling into states of disrepair, uncaring ownership, and, even ultimately, financial ruin.”
Bringing this into context, City is being investigated for spending more than it can legally earn and might have always been bankrolled by its oil-rich owner, Sheikh Monsour. If City is confirmed to have fallen foul of the regulations, an imminent downward trend might be staring them in the face. And contrary to what was obtained in 2021 when the UEFA sanctions were overturned, there are reports that Manchester City will not be able to appeal any sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which overturned the UEFA ban.
On their own part, City expressed surprise at the turn of events and claimed they are open to a review of the matter by an independent commission, who they claim will be able to “impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position”. The situation within the club, as per multiple reports, was that there were urgent staff meetings at the Etihad Stadium yesterday, and the club is ready to throw everything at clearing its name.
Guardiola seems to be giving this scandalous case the benefit of the doubt, having affirmed that should there be another investigative case against City, he would quit his job as manager. But, on the contrary, he was reportedly holding court with the players yesterday, encouraging them not to lose focus. In the real sense of it, the players and staff must have been emotionally disturbed by this case, moreso that it was coming at a time when the morale of the team is low after a shocking defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. One is then left to ask if the imposing Etihad empire will survive this storm or if is it the end of an era already, time will surely tell.