Manchester City on Sunday defeated Brighton & Hove Albion on the final day of the English Premier League season, to win their second straight league title — the first team to win back-to-back titles since Manchester United won three in a row from 2007 to 2009. City finished with 98 points, edging Liverpool FC who lost only one league match all season and who totaled 97 points, the third-highest total in Liverpool history, according to NBC Sports.
But in the aftermath of the Manchester City accomplishment — no team other than Manchester United had previously won consecutive titles in the Premier League era, which began in 1992 — one Associated Press reporter, Rob Harris, raised a point on his Twitter account that City fans were not ready to hear.
“The club remains embroiled in multiple investigations, including UEFA, over its spending re compliance with regulations. It’s looming amid the title joy,” Harris wrote, adding that, “of course City fans grumble about this being mentioned but reporters can’t ignore news and context.”
But what are the “multiple investigations” of the club? According to the Evening Standard, they relate to allegations that City has violated “financial fair play” rules, under the ownership of Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a high-ranking member of the United Arab Emirates royal family, who bought the team in 2009. Under the ownership of Mansour, Manchester City has now won four league titles — after winning only two in the club’s 115-year history prior to his purchase of the team.
The allegations originated in a series of reports by the German news magazine Der Spiegel, and are based on a series of “leaked,” or perhaps hacked emails and other documents from inside the club’s front office.
UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules are designed, according to UEFA.com, to prevent European clubs from spending more money than they take in, which not only — at least in theory — would prevent clubs from accumulating crippling debts, but would also ensure that teams owned by wealthy oligarchs have no unfair advantage thanks to the owners who are willing to pour cash into their clubs without regard for earning the money back, but only to get the glory of multiple championships.
But Manchester City under Mansour were accused in the German reports of disguising money dumped into the club by the Sheik as “sponsorship” deals, according to a report by The Guardian.
In one such deal, with UAE-based Etihad Airlines, the company paid about $88 million to the club for a sponsorship deal that puts the airline’s name on Manchester City’s stadium, and on player jerseys. But according to Forbes.com, Mansour himself is alleged to have paid about $77 million of the fee out of his own pocket, as a way to hide his expenditures on the club from UEFA’s financial auditors.
UEFA, the Premier League, the English Football Association, and the world governing body of the sport, FIFA, are all currently investigating the allegations. In a statement on the official ManCity.com site, the club called the allegations “entirely false” and said that it “welcomes the opening of a formal UEFA investigation.”