Friday 20 September 2019

Premier League rivals call for probe into City spending


Buying success: Pep Guardiola has benefited from Manchester City’s deep pockets. Photo: PA
Buying success: Pep Guardiola has benefited from Manchester City’s deep pockets. Photo: PA

Jeremy Wilson

Explosive new accusations that Manchester City's financial reports were "a web of lies" that allowed them to flout Uefa's spending rules should be investigated by Uefa, according to senior figures at other Premier League clubs.

The German news magazine 'Der Spiegel' has published further material from whistle-blowers Football Leaks, including allegations that senior figures at City, who are owned by Sheikh Mansour, discussed how to get around Uefa's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

The story claims that "sponsors from the owner's home country simply send more money over" should any shortfalls occur and details suggestions that huge parts of sponsorship deals were funded by the club's holding company the Abu Dhabi United Group.

It was also alleged that, when City's chief financial officer Jorge Chumillas asked in one internal email if they could change the date of payment for the sponsors from Abu Dhabi, board member Simon Pearce replied: "Of course, we can do what we want."


Uefa's FFP regulations were introduced in 2011, setting a limit on the amount of financial losses that any club could record. City were fined £49 million (of which £32m was suspended) in 2014 for breaching those rules, but there was considerable external suspicion that even those losses had been hugely mitigated by inflated sponsorship deals connected to Mansour, who is part of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

'Der Spiegel' yesterday wrote that City had "walked all over the FFP rules" and there is now a feeling inside the Premier League that these accusations must be investigated.

"It seems they have found a model that allowed them to get around loopholes," said one club source. "Clubs will be very disappointed if Der Spiegel's stories are true. They will want to feel this has been properly looked into. If other clubs are staying within FFP, clubs that aren't should be held to task. No other Premier League club has this kind of sponsorship model."

Another club source said that the investment at City "changed football for everyone" and that "the rules should be followed and, if they are not being respected, this should be properly dealt with".

City yesterday responded by saying that "the attempt to damage the club's reputation is organised and clear".

They have described the documents as "hacked or stolen" and "out of context" but not addressed the specific accusations.

Uefa does not intend to launch an investigation into the new allegations and says it "cannot comment on specific cases due to confidentiality obligations".

These new claims focus on how City's commercial income was generated. In one 2010 email that allegedly discussed a £15 million sponsorship with Aabar, board member Pearce is reported as writing: "As we discussed, the annual direct obligation for Aabar is £3 million. The remaining £12 million requirement will come from alternative sources provided by his highness."

Der Spiegel believes that sentence confirms that Mansour paid a portion of sponsorship money.

It also published what it says is a 2012 internal document titled "Summary of owner investment" in which £149.5 million is described as a "supplement to Abu Dhabi partnership deals".

Chumillas is also alleged in 2013 to have reported a "shortfall of£9.9 million in order to comply with Uefa FFP this season" and suggested "an additional amount of AD (Abu Dhabi) sponsorship revenues that covers this gap".

Chief executive Ferran Soriano is accused of proposing that sponsors pay a contract bonus for winning the FA Cup, even though City had not done so that year.

Der Spiegel also claims that Etihad's sponsorship was "apparently" supplemented by the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG). Chumillas is alleged to have written in one email to Pearce: "Please note that out of those 67.5m pounds, 8m pounds should be funded directly by Etihad and 59.5 by ADUG."


Etihad Airways said yesterday that it was "proud" to have been City's main partner since May 2009. It added that "the airline's financial obligations, associated with the partnership of the club and the broader City Football Group, have always been, and remain, the sole liability and responsibility of Etihad Airways".

Der Spiegel has also reported Manchester City lawyer Simon Cliff recalling a conversation between City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who was then Uefa general secretary, in which Khaldoon allegedly "said he would rather spend 30 million on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue them [Uefa] for the next 10 years", before adding that this was a chance "to avoid the destruction of the rules and organisation".

Der Spiegel has said it intends to publish further stories this week about City. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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