City’s European Impact – on and off the pitch
Whilst a 1-1 draw at home to Roma ensured another less than auspicious start in the Champions League, it does appear as though Manchester City are finally beginning to significantly impact upon European football - off the field at least.
October 22nd, 2014
City once again find themselves with just a solitary point after the first two group games, as they have done now in three of the four seasons they have appeared in the competition (the one time they didn’t, City progressed with the comfort of a game to spare), but recent announcements have suggested that their influence upon the European game is growing.
In two recent announcements, not just applicable to City but directly impacting upon them, UEFA first confirmed that they have proposed to amend the basis upon the which the seedings for the Champions League are determined and, secondly, that they are open to discussions on the topic of Financial Fair Play (FFP).
It is easy to see how both changes will benefit City. Taking the issue of seedings first, a long-standing gripe has been the fact that in each of their four seasons in the competition, City have been handed tough assignments. This, of course, is as a direct consequence of their poor UEFA coefficient in comparison to the ‘big boys’ – those established as the European elite, who FFP (inadvertently or not) has sought to protect – which has meant they have been placed in either pot 2 or pot 3. As a result, City have been drawn against the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. This, aligned with more than a little ill-luck that has seen them continually drawn against the strongest pot 4 side, has contributed to their struggles.
The move then announced by UEFA is to be a welcome one for the club. As of next season the top eight sides will no longer be those with the highest coefficient rank, but instead being the league winners from the top seven ranked nations in addition to the reigning holders. Too late to help City this season or previous of course, but does provide a reward (or ‘sporting merit’ to use the terms coined by UEFA) for those champions teams rather than just those who have been able to continually pad their UEFA coefficient, leaving it difficult for ‘outsiders’ to break in.
This would not necessarily make for an easy draw as what the move will do is in turn potentially strengthen both pot 2 and pot 3. Currently, to take England and Spain as an example, there are two sides (sometimes three in England’s case) in pot 1 from each nation. The new rules will ensure this will no longer occur as only one club from each country can be placed in pot 1. This season for instance, we would have seen Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal placed in pot 2.
Being placed in pot 1 is also contingent upon actually winning your respective domestic league. No easy feat of course, and there will be many who would see the irony of City not winning the Premier League this season when the rules would finally benefit them from doing so.
The other potential area is one that affects City even more. This season City were the most high-profile recipient of UEFA FFP justice, receiving a number of sanctions – both financial and sporting – as a result of transgressing the rules regarding allowable losses. City were particularly aggrieved regarding the penalty handed down, with chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak publicly disagreeing with the decision in this end of season interview, believing they had complied in accordance with all that was asked by UEFA.
The other ‘casualty’ of FFP was Paris St Germain, who took their punishment without murmur, surely as a result of a more blatant disregard for FFP. It is interesting then that it was these two clubs who were reported to have met with UEFA to discuss a wide number of issues surrounding FFP, the two stand out points being greater flexibility in terms of losses to enable investment (provided it was proven to be of a sustainable nature) but also to encourage a provision to include debt as part of the FFP considerations.
The latter point has been the cause of plenty of City’s anti-FFP argument; that inward investment is seen as a bad thing (i.e. Manchester City) yet the ability to load debt on to a club is permitted, no matter how egregious (i.e. Manchester United), because a club’s vast income stream supports it. Lest this be accused of being an anti-United piece, far from it. It is only correct that FFP, in principle, is a correct move, but this should not be at the expense of encouraging investment into clubs (and football) or prohibiting loading debt onto them.
The comments from Michel Platini then were interesting as it hinted that FFP to date had in effect ‘righted the ship’ and that with football now on a positive course the regulations could be looked at once again to allow the principles at the heart of FFP to continue but without the restrictions that inhibit progression in the first place.
For City it is important that they have managed to establish a voice on the European stage. On the field City may still be a work in progress in terms of becoming a force amongst Europe’s elite, but recent developments off the pitch do suggest that their influence within the corridors of power is growing at a much faster rate.