They did not waste time, the cartel. Within hours of the Court of Arbitration announcement, there was a remote scrambling of Manchester City’s elite rivals and a discussion about the next plan of action.
This is not over. There is still a Premier League investigation into City ongoing.
There is still the chance to pressure and influence those proceedings, as was attempted with UEFA’s case, when nine leading Premier League clubs — Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Leicester, Wolves, Newcastle and Burnley — wrote to CAS on March 9 to argue City should be excluded from Europe while their appeal was heard. They hadn’t a clue.
Man City boss Pep Guardiola called for an apology after the club’s European ban was lifted
They thought City were stalling, when they were actually pushing to get the appeal completed — the club couldn’t move forward until it was — but the remnants of that group remain, as angry and desperate to protect their turf as ever.
UEFA are reluctant to appeal against CAS’s verdict in the Swiss courts, where they have a dismal record but the Hateful Eight — as they are now known within the walls of the Etihad, because Wolves are believed to have pulled out — may join forces with the elites of Europe in an attempt to persuade them otherwise.
There was certainly talk of taking further legal advice, of poring over the longer CAS explanation of the verdict when it is published this week, seeking flaws that could be challenged or exploited.
City’s top players will now no longer be thinking of a move away after Monday’s decision
Perhaps they will engage the same law company who wrote the legal letter to CAS the last time, Russells.
So that was stage one of the resistance. Stage two came when the managers sat in front of the cameras on Tuesday and toed the party line.
Mikel Arteta was off-message — due only to his connections with Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, because Arsenal are certainly part of this, perhaps even its greatest driving force — but Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho did their duty.
‘A bad day for football… disgraceful… FFP is a good idea…’
The irony of Mourinho, who benefited hugely from owner investment during his first spell at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, advocating financial regulation now he is with frugal Tottenham is almost too ripe for comment.
Chelsea did everything that Manchester City have subsequently, and then worked to change the rules from the inside so that their path to the top could not be travelled again.
Yet, leaving even that gross hypocrisy aside, Mourinho’s commentary was flawed. He argued that as City were fined £9million, they were guilty, so their ban should not have been lifted. It’s a little more complicated than that.
The fine was for refusing to comply with UEFA’s initial investigation — the ban was for falsifying accounts. It’s like being charged with murder, and also resisting arrest. A person could be found not guilty of murder, but guilty of resisting arrest.
He wouldn’t, however, then get a murderer’s sentence. And even City’s fine was reduced by two-thirds. Mourinho tried to be outraged but his heart didn’t seem in it. Even he must be aware how straightforwardly logical CAS’s decision was.
Klopp was different. Klopp imagined a dangerous world of super leagues and super clubs, crushing those below with untrammelled wealth.
Jose Mourinho declared FFP ‘truly dead’ after reacting to Monday’s CAS decision on Tuesday
Jurgen Klopp has slammed the decision to overturn Manchester City’s two-year European ban
‘If the richest people or countries can do what they want in football, then that could make the competition really difficult,’ he said.
‘I think that would lead automatically to a kind of world super league with, like, 10 clubs.’
What — the sort of league that Liverpool keep talking about, in those secret meetings with other elite members like Arsenal and Manchester United, that always end up being uncovered and reported in the media?
Meetings with foreign power-brokers, often American, who want to create a closed shop Champions League, composed of the established elite?
As for making competition difficult, Klopp went on to espouse the German vision of club ownership, a system so competitive it has resulted in Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga title for the last eight seasons — when no club in the history of German football stretching back to 1903 had previously won more than three on the spin.
Owner investment does not kill competition: it creates more. The penny is beginning to drop over what is being attempted here.
Wolves, having signed the original letter to CAS, are understood not to have been part of Monday’s group call. Everton and Sheffield United were always outside the conversation. Why would they lobby to wrap ambitious clubs in red tape, stunting their growth and leaving them at the mercy of predators?
The big lie of FFP is that clubs should grow organically. Yet how is that possible if a middling organisation cannot invest further to compete, while its best players are poached? Leicester won the League and lost N’Golo Kante to Chelsea that summer. Ben Chilwell is likely to travel the same route this year.
Southampton could have been an outstanding team across the last decade, maybe another Leicester, but were denuded by Liverpool and others. FFP kills challengers.
There is no other industry that does not allow competition from companies injecting capital to improve performance and output.
If Saudi Arabian investment now makes Newcastle a force, how is that bad for the game? Don’t Newcastle fans deserve that? Isn’t the city worthy?
Leicester won the league in 2016 but lost star player N’Golo Kante to Chelsea that summer
Manchester United are one of 10 European super clubs – will there be room for many others?
We all know the majority of the 10 super clubs that Klopp is talking about, and Manchester City aren’t even part of the group, no matter their wealth.
Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, AC Milan — there won’t be room for too many others after that lot grab their share. Paris Saint-Germain might get a pass but only because Qatar, through beIN Sports, own the game.
Newcastle, Wolves, Tottenham, Everton, Leicester, Leeds, Sunderland, Aston Villa — there is no room for them at this table. And the fact one or more might even hope or begin to emulate City is what terrifies the cabal.
Arsenal, with all their advantages, are ninth, Manchester United still outside the top four. If they do not qualify for the Champions League next season £25m of their deal with adidas is lost.
Damn right they have a vested interest in finding ways to bar City, or any new challenger. The richest clubs are operating, ever more nakedly, as a protectionist cartel. And that’s what is bad for football.