Are Manchester City Corrupt?

Posted on February 8, 2023

Many people are asking the question, is football corrupt? Of course it is. The only debate is the extent of the corruption and what can be done about it, if anything at all?

Manchester City

The recent allegations made against Manchester City are not really surprising. There have long been suspicions relating to inflated sponsorship increasing City’s spending power. What I wasn’t aware of, are the allegations of how payments to managers and possibly players, were made using a third party. The accusation that City have been hampering the investigation also doesn’t look great. There will be a lot of lip licking going on at the high end of business law, especially amongst those lawyers who specialise in technicalities and whatabouttery.

Messing around with FFP rules (Financial Fair Play) is not unusual. However, it seems that punishment is more likely in the EFL than it is in the Premier League. Either top flight clubs are cleaner, or they have better lawyers, allowing them to run rings around the rules. Another reason could be that Championship clubs are more likely to attract owners who will risk everything to make a killing. Gamblers can see the riches that come with promotion.

Reading FC

The team I support, Reading, got caught up in FFP a couple of years ago and were punished. It was a justified punishment too. It resulted in a six point deduction and a transfer ban that runs until the end of this season. Their crime was quite simple. Salaries were 194% of turnover and Reading surpassed the maximum debt clubs are allowed to incur over a 3 year period (£39 million).

Reading’s penalty would have been worse if they had hidden income behind false sponsorship or made payments to players through ‘other parties’. In fairness, Reading FC appeared to fess up and worked with the EFL to produce a debt reduction plan that would allow them to avoid further punishment. It was still a desperate situation. Relegation (narrowly avoided) in 2022 may well have resulted in administration and further penalties. Reading’s folly put them on the edge of extinction, so FFP is, at least in part, in place to avoid chancers loading a club with debt then walking away.

Go Compare

So, compare the situation at Reading to the allegations made against Manchester City. As stated above, City’s involve the following.

1/Exaggerating sponsorship payments (sponsorship is income, donations pumped in by the owners isn’t).

2/Reducing wage overheads by paying staff through 3rd Party companies.

3/Several instances of hampering the PL investigation to their finances.

If the allegations are true, in a moral world, City should be facing punishment far worse than Reading did. If FFP is genuinely trying to level up football, City surely need to be made an example of.

Or should they?

Some say that if an individual, or even a state, in City’s case, wishes to chuck money at a football club, then so be it. It’s their money, they can do what they want with it, can’t they? It’s easy to buy into that argument, especially if it’s the club you support and they are winning trophies. However, allowing owners the freedom to do as they please might not end well. There is an argument that lack of regulation is a bit like saying, “fuck it, let athletes take drugs, let’s see how fast the fuckers can run”. Is FFP about morality, or lack of it? Or is it just a way of keeping the status quo?

Sugar Daddies and all That Jazz

Since the start of the Premier League, teams such as Leicester, Blackburn, Chelsea and indeed, Manchester City, almost certainly wouldn’t have won the title if they had operated within their annual turnover. This would have left Manchester United with another six or seven titles. It could be argued that if football is for those with the biggest turnover and not for sugar daddies, it would be a very boring place. The only difference in the modern world is the sugar daddies are international billionaires, hedge funds, or even countries. They are no longer the slightly dodgy bloke who owns the local factory or building firm, but it’s the same thing really. Buying the trophies goes right the way back to the late 1800’s.

If I look at my own club, for example. They bought their way out of the 3rd tier in the early 2000’s by buying second tier players with John Madjeski’s loans and donations. Their first go at the Premier League in 2006, was refreshingly honest looking, but what about the second run at promotion in 2012? It was turbo charged by a dodgy Russian oligarch funding the January acquisition of Jason Roberts but us Royals supporters didn’t care. Reading fans didn’t ask morality questions when they were stuffing Southampton in their own back yard.


Football probably needs to be regulated independently, not self governed. It also needs to work at better wealth distribution across the leagues so small clubs aren’t cut adrift from the big boys and behaving irrationally. That would stop owners coming into clubs like Reading and playing high stakes that can result in saddling them with unsolvable debt. The dream solution would be a wage cap but that isn’t ever happening. An alternative is to ban mega rich owners, then base everything on turnover and know the top 3 before the season starts.

I was going to say that the British government should step in and look at it. However, they are more corrupt than any football club would ever dare to be and therein lies a problem. The British government were the ones who allowed oligarch money in and happily took donations from them

So who sets the example?

1 Reply to "Are Manchester City Corrupt?"

  • Norman House
    February 8, 2023 (6:52 pm)

    The original charges made by UEFA regarding FFP and levelled at Manchester City were proven, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced some of the impact as there is a statute of limitation and so some of the offences were effectively non-qualifying. They were found guilty of some and it was maybe somewhat surprising that the Premier League didn’t double down on them. Perhaps they thought it was already enough that they had broken FFP rules.

    It seems strange that they have taken 4 years to investigate especially there is no statute of limitation for the Premier League. Maybe it is to get the house in order before the government brings in their own governance. Though to be honest, given how corrupt they are, I’d rather they keep out.

    The Premier League have allowed another nation-state in with Newcastle, so their right and proper tests have long been dodgy. It does seem though that Newcastle on the face of it are playing by the rules, so far. Maybe the attack on City is to warn Newcastle and Chelsea that they must behave.

    Chelsea and Todd Boehly are absolute basket cases, but they have got around some aspects of the rules because their debt was written off, so Boehly starts at zero. The UEFA loophole of spreading transfers over more than 5 years has been closed at least for next season. I think their issue will be getting players off their books. They currently have well over 30 players in their first-team squad and 17 senior players on loan. Maybe more, depending how you count them. Some won’t leave or be too expensive for other clubs to buy, they will expect to be paid off. Aubameyang for one!

    With that in mind, I think they have to punish City. A massive fine will have no impact. Maybe a points deduction and stripping of titles would. Could they go the whole hog and relegate City, maybe? But City’s main lawyer gets £80k a day, so the case needs to be watertight.

    I think they will be found guilty of some of the charges and the punishments will have to be significant or it will really be a free for all, going forward!

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