English Premier League Sport

Manchester City ‘hid’ £30m from UEFA FFP investigators – Leaked report

Manchester City ‘hid’ £30.74million in costs from UEFA investigators and threatened to engage the ’50 best lawyers in the world’ to sue the organisation ‘for the next 10 years’ as part of a bitter feud over their failure to comply with Financial Fair Play rules, it has been claimed.

Whistleblowing hackers Football Leaks have also claimed they have seized documents that show current FIFA president and then UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino sided with City and went behind the backs of independent auditors to meet officials in Manchester for secret talks while negotiations over a penalty for the breach were ongoing.

City, along with French giants Paris Saint-Germain, were found in breach of FFP regulations for 2011-12 and 2012-13 when they posted combined losses of more than £150m – far beyond what UEFA’s then-new rules permitted. As a result, in 2014 they reluctantly accepted a fine of £49m, which was later cut by two thirds following subsequent compliance.

German publication Der Spiegel, who obtained the documents from Football Leaks, say they show auditors on behalf of UEFA went to Manchester in January of that year and that the result of the trip ‘was a disaster’.

They say they found 84 per cent of the club’s ‘other commercial income’ originated from sponsors from Abu Dhabi – the home of their owners and claim that their report found the club had hidden £30.74m in costs from UEFA in its annual statement of accounts.

The hacked documents also show marketing experts brought in to report on City’s commercial activity found that three of four contracts the club had signed with companies from Abu Dhabi were ‘significantly overvalued’ – as much as 80 per cent higher than market value. A further visit to Manchester determined that two City sponsors were ‘related parties’.

According to the documents, City then waged war on UEFA via its lawyers. They rejected the report and at one point threatened to challenge FFP in the European Union courts.

The material also reportedly suggests that Infantino attempted to outmanoeuvre his own investigators by, in conjunction with City chief executive Ferran Soriano, setting up a meeting between a UEFA lawyer and a City lawyer where it was agreed the club would make a proposal for an amicable solution. They also claim that Infantino was in regular contact with contacts in Manchester, sending assurances that a palatable conclusion would be reached.

Infantino, it is alleged, also carried out a similar campaign with officials at PSG in a bid to lessen their penalty. The files also claim to show that City’s club lawyer Simon Cliff, unimpressed with the negotiations, wrote in an email that chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak had told Infantino he rejected the notion of a monetary penalty.

The email allegedly reads: ‘Khaldoon said he would rather spend £30m on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue them for the next 10 years.’ The material goes on to reveal that City received a message from then UEFA president Michel Platini, explaining that he had spoken to Patrick Vieira, then a City member of staff, at the Europa League Final in Turin. ‘Please tell your owners in Abu Dhabi they have to trust me,’ Platini wrote. ‘We understand and like what they are doing with the club.’

Following the announcement of City’s punishment, in an email to others at the club, Sorriano wrote that the settlement, viewed by some as lenient, ‘does not materially affect us’.

A further email, written by Cliff, was also obtained. A day before the agreement was reached, Jean-Luc Dehaene, who led a team of around seven UEFA investigators until falling ill in early in 2014, had passed away. ‘One down, six to go,’ Cliff allegedly wrote to a City employee who had informed him of Dehaene’s death.

City have reacted angrily to the reports. A club spokesman said: ‘We will not be providing any comment on out of context materials purportedly hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Man City personnel and associated people. The attempt to damage the club’s reputation is organised and clear.’

Bayern denied Der Spiegel’s report on Friday night, claiming they were not involved in renewed plans for a Super League.

FIFA released a statement late on Friday saying that the reports are ‘an attempt to undermine the new leadership of FIFA.’

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