MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06: The Manchester City squad celebrate with the Premier League trophy during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad Stadium on May 6, 2018 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Spotlight on Man City: The Key Points From Der Spiegel on Alleged Dodgy Dealings & FFP Subversion

Manchester City have been the subject of a storm this week after leaked emails and documents seen by German publication Der Spiegel have been billed as the 'unmasking' of the Premier League champions over the alleged flouting of Financial Fair Play rules and questionable business practices, dealings and relationships.


City strongly deny wrongdoing and have labelled Dier Spigel's series of articles as an 'attempt to damage the club's reputation'.


Here is a point by point summary of Der Spiegel's key allegations...

1. Manipulating Sponsorship Contracts

City apparently found themselves almost £10m short of meeting UEFA's financial regulations in 2013 after the sacking of Roberto Mancini. The way they covered that, the leaked emails purport to show, was by receiving extra money from sponsors in Abu Dhabi.


"We will have a shortfall of £9.9m in order to comply with UEFA FFP this season. The deficit is due to RM termination. I think that the only solution left would be an additional amount of AD sponsorship revenues that covers this gap," chief finance officer Jorge Chumillas wrote in one email, Der Spiegel claim.


Another executive, Simon Pearce, apparently suggested a 'backdated deal for the next two years...paid up front', while chief executive Ferran Soriano allegedly proposed having sponsors pay a contractually obligated bonus for winning the FA Cup, even though City hadn't.


In the end, Etihad Airways reportedly coughed up £1.5m, an extra £500,000 also came from Aabar and £5.5m was paid by the Abu Dhabi tourism authority.


Pearce's startling alleged response to a question from Chumillas about changing the date of the sponsor payment was apparently, "Of course, we can do what we want."  

2. Disguised Owner Investment

Aside from limiting overspending to prevent clubs from going into financial meltdown, FFP also stops any club from being bankrolled by owner investment. Instead, it encourages clubs to raise their own sustainable revenue from things like sponsorship and commercial deals.


City had deals in place, but one of the major allegations from Der Spiegel was that sponsors themselves were not paying in as much as was being declared, with the rest coming from other sources associated with owner Sheikh Mansour, of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.


A 2010 leaked email from Pearce is allegedly read, "As we discussed, the annual direct obligation for Aabar is GBP 3 million. The remaining 12 million GBP requirement will come from alternative sources provided by His Highness."


Another instance is Der Spiegel's claim that Etihad only directly contributed £8m of the £67.5m that deal was supposed to pay in 2015. The other £59.5m was funded by Abu Dhabi United Group, Sheikh Mansour's company, as an alleged email from Chumillas to Pearce showed.


Finance director Andrew Widdowson appeared to clarify how when he sent an alleged email explaining that the money is 'routed through the partners and they then forward onto us'.  

3. 'Project Longbow'

Der Spiegel has claimed that City were aware that FFP would be a problem for them as early as 2010 and saw it as something they needed to 'fight' rather than adhere to.


One leaked email from Soriano, for example, revealed his dismay at the support for FFP from executives at other clubs after attending a meeting of the European Club Association (ECA).


"We will need to fight this and do it in a way that is not visible, or we will be pointed out as the global enemies of football," was the Spaniard's alleged memo to colleagues.


This led to the apparent formulation of 'Project Longbow', so named as it was the weapon of choice for the English in famous medieval victories over the French at Crécy and Agincourt.


Der Spiegel took a dim view of City's alleged attempt at subversion, sarcastically commenting, "If you want to buy your way into football heaven, you can't let a few rules get in the way."  

4. Taking Marketing Rights Off the Books

Der Spiegel alleged City opted to shift costs 'either fully or partially away from the club' to reduce potential losses, thus allowing them to spend more against the revenue they did have.


The clearest example alleged by Der Spiegel was the transferring of marketing rights for City players to an external company. That raised €30m, while it also removed the need for City to pay marketing fees, with the obligation on the new company: Fordham Sports Management.


City brought in investment experts David and Jonathan Rowland, father and son to help. The owners of Fordham were, as Der Spiegel puts it, 'well hidden' - "The path first leads to a British straw-man company, then to the British Virgin Islands and finally to the Rowland family trust." 


The claim is that Abu Dhabi United Group provided the money for the Rowlands to purchase the marketing rights, with David Rowland said to have then been assured by Simon Pearce in an email that ADUG would send £11m annually to cover Fordham's operating costs.

5. Control of Press Coverage

In 'Chapter Three' of the leak, Der Spiegel claimed a contract had been signed with Pep Guardiola as early as October 2015, as many as four months before it was formally announced. And in that time City allegedly killed a press story on talks between the parties.


The supposed contract with Guardiola, who had only just started his third season with Bayern Munich, was kept secret. But a story emerged in the Sunday Mirror speaking of a meeting between Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain, prompting this alleged email from City spokesman Simon Heggie to colleagues: "I'll call him and tell him we want it removed."


The article was taken offline, with Heggie apparently also then informing City staff that he had sent a note to other media outlets instructing them to 'ignore' the story.


Der Spigel claims that 'City control everything'.

6. Delaying Freedom of Information

Simon Pearce, City executive, PR man for Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and associated with Khaldoon Al Mubarak's Executive Affairs Authority in Abu Dhabi, is alleged to have deliberately delayed meeting a Freedom of Information request in 2013.


That request came from journalist Nicholas McGeehan, who has described the UAE as "a brutal, torturing police state at home and a perpetrator of war crimes abroad". It only related to a contract between City and Manchester city council and was deemed to contain 'little risk'.


And while Pearce could not prevent the document from being disclosed under UK law, he sent an email to staff two weeks before the last date by which City had to comply, allegedly stating,  "He should get it on the morning of the final day Sept. 1st. I want to disrupt any momentum." 

7. Partner With Questionable Reputation

Also of interest to Der Spiegel was the sponsor relationship between City and Arabtec, a Dubai-based construction company that had been the subject of several instances of negative press attention from the likes of the Guardian and BBC in previous years over migrant worker rights and treatment.


City are said to have undertaken a risk assessment process over what it would mean to partner themselves with a company with that kind of reputation. And that club report allegedly concluded, "The partnership with Arabtec does have significant potential to damage the perception and standing of the Club and its owners."


Der Spiegel claimed one spokeswomen further warned City executives of the proposed Arabtec deal: "I think it's the biggest single risk to (our) reputation we have faced since 2008."


Despite the risk assessment and alleged warnings suggesting it was a bad idea, City eventually went with it, receiving £7m-per-year from the contract. A regional deal, the Arabtec relationship was subsequently only publicised in Arab states, Russia and Turkey and gained little to no media attention in England, where it might have been openly criticised.

8. Mancini's Double Contract

The fourth and final instalment of Der Spiegel's exposé alleged that former City manager Roberto Mancini had a secret second contract as an 'adviser' at another club owned by Sheikh Mansour at the same time as he was in charge at the Etihad Stadium.


Mancini is said to have signed both deals on the same day when he was formally appointed in Manchester in 2009 and was even apparently being paid more in base salary by Al-Jazira than he was by City - £1.75m annually in Abu Dhabi compared to £1.5m in England.


"We have some payments that require to be made by Al Jazira. We will need to send monies to ADUG and ADUG will then pass on to Al Jazira with payment instruction," was the alleged content of one leaked email from a supposed City executive in 2011.


Der Spiegel calls Mancini's role at Al-Jazira a 'pretext' and claims to have tracked money for him in 2011 from Manchester, to Al-Jazira, to a 'discrete shell company' in Mauritius.

Der Spiegel has promised a total of four articles this week on Manchester City's dealings.


For more details on 'Chapter One' click here.


For more details on 'Chapter Two' click here.


For more details on 'Chapter Three' click here.


For more details on 'Chapter Four' click here.