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What's so fair about financial fair play?

Monday 11th July 2011
MANCHESTER'S two football clubs have very different owners. One is pumping in cash trying to re-establish a once great club amongst the world's elite while bringing a myriad of benefits to a deprived area of the city.

The other is plundering away cash to pay for its own hundreds of millions of debts raised taking over the richest sporting franchise on the planet.

One is flooding the game with money, which is filtering its way through the Premier League, across Europe's leagues and into the lower divisions.

The other is reinvesting a fraction of its massive profits back into the sport it benefits so hugely from.

One is prioritising fans, keeping prices under control while the other has repeatedly hiked up ticket prices and banned fans, who have the temerity to disagree with their ownership.

The first, of course, is Manchester City, who face a potential investigation by UEFA over a £400m stadium sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi airline Etihad.

And the second is Manchester United, who won't get so much as a sideways glance as the Glazers continue to benefit from the juicy fruits of their controversial ownership.

Any investigation into the Blues will be done, ironically in the name of financial fair play.

The new regulations mean that any team that qualifies for the Champions League, like United, Chelsea, Arsenal and, until recently Liverpool, do every season you could have as much as an extra £50m to your transfer kitty.

If you want to spend £50m of your own money just to keep up, never mind overtake, forget it. Sorry not allowed.

No wonder Europe's elite are behind the new rules - there is far too much to lose by risking increased competition.

Liverpool are most under threat, finding themselves already behind City.

So it was no surprise that owner John W Henry should launch a thinly-veiled attack via Twitter on the value of the Etihad sponsorship deal shortly after it was announced.

But value is an abstract concept, particular in football and surely to someone who sanctioned a £35m deal for Andy Carroll and the £17m transfer for Jordan Henderson.

Yet still, according to the Daily Mail, Europe's leading clubs may call on UEFA to investigate City.

Should they succeed in pulling the plug on the deal, a rundown area of Manchester area will lose a new sixth form college,  a Manchester University and NHS linked sports science complex, a new rugby union team and a new world-beating training complex and community football pitches.

Manchester City Council will lose out on a much-needed £20m windfall from the naming rights at a time when services are being cut across the region.

Other sports including lacrosse, basketball, badminton and water polo will miss out on being given a base on the spectacular new Etihad Campus.

And it will all but put an end to a new side breaking into Europe's cosy cartel.

Not something to be particularly proud of.

But the status quo will continue, free to take money away from the gain with the full support of Michel Platini in the name of 'fair play' while competition will be restricted to the chosen few.
Jonathan Smith

Total articles: 2

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