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Manchester City and European Soccer arrive at a time of settlement



MANCHESTER, England – Remove the jargon and euphemisms and the bewildering forest of acronyms, eliminate the clamor of assertion and counterclaims and strict rejection, find a way through the tedious detail and intricate details, and create one simple truth: At the very beginning of European football is a moment of reckoning before.

The report last week that UEFA is less concerned with a revision than with a total reset of its crown jewel, the Champions League, is not an administrative story about the format of a competition. Monday's New York Times report that Manchester City may still be excluded from the same tournament is not about breaking the law or misleading financial statements or malicious leaks.

Both act in a sense of far more comprehensive things. much easier to understand. Both are about a fight for control between UEFA – the organization that oversees European football for decades – and the world-wide, extravagant rich superclubs, which generate a large part of their revenue.

Both are about power and who can do it. And both are about who runs football – in whose name and in whose favor.

In retrospect, a UEFA document containing a vision of the Champions League, football, was released last Wednesday. It could become a glamorous, highly lucrative and high profile club competition.

There should be a tournament that is fundamentally different from the tournament that currently employs screens and minds: 24 teams would not have to qualify for the tournament after being nominated for the Champions League by domestic competition. They would essentially become a permanent class of Champions League teams, a continental super league, and, according to the outgoing leader of the Premier League, Richard Scudamore, a deadly defeat for more than a century of domestic football. 19659002] And then, on Monday, when Manchester City fans were still cleaning up the rubble at the Etihad Stadium, which celebrated a second consecutive Premier League title, The Times reported that the panel had examined the proposals for the club misguided UEFA's financial supervision It was expected that its commercial income would recommend Sanctioning City for its violations. The punishment could be as tough as a ban on the Champions League for the entire season, the tournament whose trophy distinguishes the association of owners of the club above all others.

It's easy to break away from such stories. They have a touch of seclusion, a touch of futurology. It's tempting to put it somewhere between divination and speculation. A chorus of voices, each offering a different tangent, will sound as soon as they appear. The facts are easily lost in the flood of comments. Last week, in the midst of perhaps the most dramatic days ever created by the Champions League in their current form, most of the major European leagues against the US were planning to change the competition. UEFA immediately insisted that this was only part of a consultation process. Everyone would be able to have a say. It was just an idea. Nothing was carved in stone. The panic subsided. The anger subsided. Nothing has changed, not immediately: Tottenham defeated Ajax, the Champions League was as good as ever. The world turned. [Tuesday] Manchester City reiterated its rejection of misconduct on Tuesday. Since the allegations first appeared on Football Leaks' whistleblowing platform, the club has rejected any allegations that it intentionally inflated sponsorship deals to comply with the so-called financial fair play provisions that UEFA promises to regulate club spending Has. [19659002] In a statement denouncing the allegation of financial complacency as "completely wrong," City expressed its deep concern that the Times had cited "persons familiar with the case".

Either the club's "good intentions" In the independent investigators reporting to UEFA, Manchester City felt that the trial was "misrepresented by people who intended to increase the reputation of the club and its commercial interests damage. Or both. "UEFA did not comment on the Times article.

Concentrating on the presence of leaks, however, as well as the debate on the validity of rules for financial fair play – whether European football needs an explanation, owners how to spend their money – and how the dispute over whether the Champions League would be better or worse if played on a Saturday, a week or so ago.

It is not ridiculous to think this FFP is an inherently anti-competitive measure. It is not absurd to think that the owners are allowed to spend whatever they want on their toys, and it is not crazy to believe that clubs are allowed to play their livelihood on the whim of a benefactor, or that the entire building evolves to do so To protect and anchor the primacy of the established elite. Maybe the rules in the current form are wrong.

The opposite is also the case: it is quite logical that F.F.P. It is a good thing that clubs must live within their means that long-term sporting and social facilities used as vanity projects or soft-power games or reputation cleaners for regimes with questionable human rights records are less than ideal. Maybe the rules are the rules and the clubs should stick to them while lobbying to change them instead of just picking and choosing those they like.

Similarly, the Champions League might be better if Europe's giants were playing more often. Perhaps it would be in the best interests of the game if high-profile European games and mid-week domestic games were played on weekends. Maybe the few teams from Greece, Poland and Belgium who make it are just a waste of time.

Or maybe not. Maybe the European elite clubs – who had an idea for the Champions League as they should look weird, quite random – run the risk of overestimating their place in UEFA . Maybe a change of the Champions League kills the golden goose. Maybe it works the way it is and it does not have to be changed.

It is quite feasible to do all this, but the question of which of them is most convincing – which of them, if any, is right – is not the most urgent one. It is the fact that these questions must now be asked, which is most important. The importance of the plan to change the Champions League goes beyond the potential impact on national tournaments. The consequences of a possible ban on Manchester City against European competition extend far beyond the Etihad Stadium. In essence, these stories are about who will lead European football, whose voice has the most weight, and who responds to whom as soon as everything else is gone – the acronyms, the arguments and the rest.

The reorientation of the Champions League meeting the needs of the largest and richest clubs (from 2019) could be under the UEFA banner, but it would not be up to UEFA. It would suggest that power really lies with the superclubs; that they can shape the competitions in which they participate in their favor; UEFA is just a trademark, a stamp, an administrator, a licensing commission.

If UEFA does not listen to the recommendations of its own investigators – if a ban on the city is the sanction they seek – that would prove that the FFP has now effectively ended, that the rising elite of Manchester City and Paris St Germain, backed by Abu Dhabi and Qatar, has rightfully violated the rules; that those clubs that are building their business models to the new reality are foolish; that Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA president, who was elected by a consortium of associations from Central and Eastern Europe outside the big five leagues, could not stand the pressure of big money and the old elite; that ultimately UEFA has ignored its own investigators and could or would enforce its own rules.

That's the clarity; the rest is Fug.

Maybe that's all for the best. Maybe it would be better if UEFA were no longer the ultimate source of power in European football. Maybe it's time to accept that what the Premier League or P.S.G. good is not the same as for Bulgaria and Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Maybe the era of broad churches and consensus is over. Maybe it's time to lighten the smaller countries, not even claiming to share the wealth.

Or maybe not. Perhaps handing over control over the game to a super club cartel or allowing nation states to run teams on their own unchecked desires could result in everyone outside this small cabal being disfranchised.

Maybe the game should be run for the elite. Maybe the game should run for everyone. Either way, we approach a crossroads. The direction in which we will eventually travel will tell us more than the number of Champions League games on the weekend or the number of games in Manchester City. It will tell us exactly where the power is now.


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