Man City FFP: Deflection theory revealed as journalist warns of ‘frightening end-game’ over ATP case

Joe Williams
Man City and Premier League logos
Man City are taking legal action against the Premier League.

Man City could be “forcing the top flight’s lawyers away from their work” on their 115 charges by making their legal challenge against the Premier League, according to a top journalist.

The Times reported yesterday that an arbitration hearing will start on Monday over a claim made by Premier League champions Man City against the top flight’s associated party transaction (APT) regulations.

The APTs are designed to ensure that all deals between a club and entities linked to that club’s owners are done at fair market value.

The Times reports that a 165-page claim was issued by lawyers representing Man City.

If the action is successful, The Times says it could assist Man City in the defence of their case against 115 Premier League charges laid in February 2023, because some of the charges relate to alleged attempts to disguise owner funding as sponsorship in breach of league rules. The Citizens deny any wrongdoing.

The story has made headlines around the country with a number of the country’s top journalists reacting to the news that Man City are taking legal action against the Premier League.

Football writer Henry Winter said: “This is seismic and is relating to the future of the Premier League, which is being put at risk by Manchester City’s behaviour.

“Phrases that City’s lawyers have been throwing around, like ‘the tyranny of the majority’ – which is a phrase which means the oppressing of smaller groups. I don’t think anyone looks at Manchester City as the oppressed.

“They have the best manager in the world in Pep Guardiola – alongside Carlo Ancelotti. They have the best player in Phil Foden. They’ve won the title four times, have fantastic subs on the bench, have a fantastic stadium, an amazing training ground. They don’t look oppressed to me.

“The winners will be the lawyers and this could just be a counter-strike because they want to distract or place pressure on the Premier League ahead of the 115 charges, which City deny.

“This just reeks. Who runs the game in this country? Should it be the democracy of the Premier League, with the 14 majority of teams who vote things through? Or should English football be run from Saudi (Arabia) or Abu Dhabi?”

The Daily Telegraph‘s Sam Wallace reacted in his opinion piece, he wrote: ‘The Premier League clubs who break bread with their Manchester City counterparts at their annual general meeting in Yorkshire this week at least know now what they are up against: a complete demolition of the financial controls that protect the league’s competitiveness.

‘City are the most dominant side in the history of English league football. All the rest of the game is asking, is that they comply with the rules that they signed up to.

‘Now they are on the attack. They wish to dismantle the dynamic that has made the Premier League less iniquitous and more successful than European rivals. Part of which is an acknowledgement that while some clubs are richer than others, none should be allowed unlimited owner-equity investment.

‘They will know that dragging the Premier League and their fellow clubs to court does immeasurable damage. Yet it would appear the edict from Abu Dhabi is irresistible.’

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The Daily Mail‘s Mike Keegan referred to unnamed sources as he claimed there is a theory that Man City have taken action so the ‘top flight’s lawyers away from their work on the 115 charges’.

Keegan wrote: ‘There is a view among some that the move is a tactic by City, aimed at forcing the top flight’s lawyers away from their work on the 115 charges.

‘City have enlisted no fewer than three KCs to their legal team. Citing the 1998 Competition Act, they want damages for losses they say they have incurred ‘as a result of the unlawfulness of the FMV (Fair Market Value) rules’.

‘They add that the rules were instigated by rival clubs following the Saudi takeover of Newcastle to ‘safeguard their own commercial advantages’ and used a quote from a senior executive which they say proves rivals wished to limit deals from outfits in the Gulf region.

‘City also say the lack of rules on spending when Manchester United were more dominant mean they cannot monetise their brand in the manner of their cross-town rivals.

‘In what appears to be a swipe at the established elite, they also claim the rules penalise those with ‘lower-profile sporting histories’.’

Man City are ‘staggering in their audacity’

While The Times chief sport reporter Owen Slot reckons Man City have been “staggering in their audacity” by their legal challenge against the Premier League,

Slot wrote: ‘This latest news tells us that, from this position of unprecedented dominance, they actually intend to run away from the rest of the pack.

‘In the midst of the legalese, the end-game here is frightening. It is not about being frontrunners in the Premier League, it is more about rendering the competition redundant because, if you lift financial constraints – which is what they are fighting for in court – then you create a two-horse race for nation state-owned clubs, with Chelsea, whose owners are partly Saudi-funded, trundling along in third.

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‘This is the nuclear option. This legal challenge by City is a battle about cutting loose from the rules and in so doing, it would cut them loose from the other 19 clubs. Sorry, the other 18 clubs. Newcastle will have a fingers-crossed, front-row seat in the gallery.

‘There are some elements to this legal challenge that are staggering in their audacity. City are challenging the Associated Party Transaction (APT) rules that the Premier League signed up to in December 2021.

‘Yet, like all the clubs, City had themselves signed off on the new rules. They may not have voted for them but as signatories to the Premier League agreement, they nevertheless put their name to them and agreed to abide by them.

‘That is how the Premier League works; it is a private club governed by the majority vote.’