Money talks as honest clubs fall short

The European football season is coming to the business end. However, are the worthy winners being rewarded?

Manchester City retained the Premier League title it won for the past two seasons to equal its neighbour, Manchester United’s record of three consecutive titles.

However, in February, City was charged with breaking the financial fair play 115 times from 2009 until 2018. The club has not fully cooperated with the investigations, raising suspicions that it has something to hide.

It faced similar charges from UEFA in 2020. It was banned from European competitions for two seasons and fined €30 million.

Upon appeal, the panel found that the breaches were not established or the time was barred, which meant that it happened too long ago for UEFA to do anything about it.

UEFA reduced the fine to a laughable €10 million. City is a club that hardly ever spends €30 million, let alone €10 million, to sign a player.

Unlike UEFA, the Premier League has no statute of limitations, but from recent history, it does appear that City’s owner – the Abu Dhabi Group – is too powerful for football authorities.

Conspiracy theorists would claim it spends its way to get out of trouble and continue operating as it pleases, thus it would never get punished, even if it is guilty.

City was a club that courted relegation, yo-yo-ing between England’s top division and the lower tiers before the cash injection from the Abu Dhabi Group.

There is no dispute that the money was well-spent, but it creates an unfair advantage, as the other clubs spend within their means and have been doing so for decades. The injection of cash has expedited City’s growth.

The best term to describe it is financial doping. City has won the league five out of the last six seasons. Liverpool has run it close in the past, and this season, Arsenal was leading 91 per cent of the time before faltering near the finish line.

It appears the only way to stop City is to have an equally wealthy owner.

Over in Spain, Barcelona won its first La Liga title in three seasons, but it, too, started the season with financial trouble.

Despite facing the possibility of bankruptcy, the club signed seven players based on potential earnings from qualification to the Champions League, progress in the Champions League and future TV rights.

In March, it was charged with corruption for paying over €7.3 million between 2001 to 2018 to firms owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, an ex-vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee.

Prosecutors claimed that under a secret agreement and in exchange for money, Negreira’s referees favoured Barcelona.

Shockingly, La Liga’s outspoken president, Javier Tebas, said there would be no sanctions against the club because it happened outside the league’s statute of limitations.

The league can only investigate complaints up to three years after the alleged rule-breaking occurred.

In terms of fairness and justice, it was unfair to all the teams that competed with integrity in that period.

Barcelona won La Liga in nine out of the 18 seasons. Sports should reward teams and individuals that have won the competition fair and square.

That is the thesis of sports, but in this case, teams are getting off the hook on technicalities and delaying investigations.

It could be a reflection of the world we live in today. I might be naive to believe in the goodness of the world and concepts like fair play and justice, but I do sincerely hope that one way or another, justice is served and those in the wrong are punished sufficiently.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13. 

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