UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations are full of holes, and elite European clubs have found clever ways of getting around them without consequence. In theory, FFP is designed for the right reasons to prevent clubs from being able to spend more than bring in, but foreign sponsorship deals and outside investments provide an outlet for owners to work around the rules.
Bayern Munich’s president Uli Hoeness has been particularly critical of Manchester City, which is owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (“Sheikh Mansour”), who is also deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the half-brother of U.A.E President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In Der Spiegel’s detailed exposé on Manchester City’s history of questionable financial backing ever since Sheikh Mansour took over, Hoeness was quoted as saying, “Abu Dhabi only has to open up the oil spigots to be able to afford expensive players.”
Hoeness was alluding to the fact that City’s owners can easily work around FFP regulations through large investments from off-shore partners and sponsorship deals that all tie back to Abu Dhabi United Group, a private equity company owned by Sheik Mansour that acts as a financial intermediary of sorts.
Hoeness’s criticism, however, has rankled some observers across the Channel. The Daily Mail, attempted to dismiss Hoeness’s criticism of Manchester City and PSG’s skirting of FFP rules without any repercussions by citing his time in prison on his seven counts of tax fraud. They argue, on the contrary, that the Premier League has greatly benefited from clubs bringing it outside investments, whereas FFP has shown a tendency to keep the elite clubs in power in Europe’s other top leagues, i.e. Bayern Munich, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Paris Saint-Germain. Of course, the article makes no mention of the fact that the EPL championship has simply moved around the same group of mega-clubs that dominate the opposition, in much the same way as Barcelona and Real Madrid effectively share the La Liga championship.
While FFP has indeed helped maintain the status quo of powerful clubs, it is ridiculous to ignore how it has also helped the top English clubs maintain their own dominance, while also engaging in dubious financial practices that injure outside clubs, big and small, alike. Dismissing Hoeness as “an entitled German crook,” as if he were both guilty of FFP’s flaws and wrong to criticize ManCity’s dealings, is just a convenient distraction from a legitimate issue.