Potential Losses: Man City vs Newcastle

Potential Losses: Man City vs Newcastle

The problem for Manchester City, as they gaze into the mirror and admire the freedom fighters staring back at them, is that the tyrants in their crosshairs might not be as scary as the tyrants under the bed. 

Those being the tyrants who will be the keenest of all spectators when City and the Premier League go for a scrap in their private arbitration hearing across the next fortnight.

How Newcastle United must be loving this. We’re hearing they’ll be taking a backseat, playing it neutral, not picking a side, or in public anyway. But they’ll be across every detail, studying each manoeuvre when those two old swingers fight over City’s ability to disfigure a sport.

Their hands will stay clean but their fingers will be crossed. They will be hoping for a City win from St James’ Park to Riyadh. Yearning for it and thanking their lucky stars for those in Abu Dhabi. Have at it, lads, score one for us little people. Right behind you, but only until we’re not.

A lot has been said since Tuesday, when some excellent reporting brought to light City’s secret legal battle within a bigger war, which is to say their move against the one rule that does more than any to keep their spending in check.

Man City – headed by owner Sheikh Mansour (front left) and chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak (front centre) – have launched legal action against the Premier League

The case will be heard in a private arbitration hearing in what promises to be a pivotal moment for the Premier League and their chief executive Richard Masters (pictured)

The case will be heard in a private arbitration hearing in what promises to be a pivotal moment for the Premier League and their chief executive Richard Masters (pictured)

I agree with almost all of the scathing conclusions, especially those skewering City’s ravenous desire to blow up what little remains of football’s competitive integrity. Those mocking the sheer absurdity of City positioning themselves as the oppressed. Those slaughtering City’s lawyers for misappropriating phrases like ‘tyranny of the majority’ and those questioning how the Premier League ever allowed itself to be so badly compromised by state-owned clubs.

But can City win? Or to phrase that another way, would a win actually be a loss for them, if they get their wish and the League’s Associated Party Transactions rule is deemed unenforceable? What is the deeper fallout if clubs of infinite wealth are effectively permitted free range, with the dissolution of limits on how much money can be moved from one company under an umbrella to another in the name of sponsorship?

Well, I imagine Newcastle like that idea very much. It brings to mind something said two years ago, almost to the day, back when the PGA Tour was haemorrhaging golfers to Saudi Arabia’s LIV circuit. ‘If this is an arms race with dollar bills as weapons, we can’t compete,’ admitted their commissioner Jay Monahan. His point being that they couldn’t compete against Saudi wealth. And nor can Abu Dhabi – the GDP of Saudi Arabia is twice that of the United Arab Emirates.

So good luck to City with that victory if they get it.

I’d go along with the prevailing intuition within football and legal boardrooms that this lawsuit is a trojan horse. That the purpose of this skirmish is to launch a backdoor offensive on their grander crisis, and namely those 115 charges, a significant proportion of which relate to allegations of inflated sponsorship deals. Taking a win in the matter at hand would undoubtedly help in the bigger case against them.

If it’s their survival as a Premier League club at stake, with their ejection a possibility if the 115 breaches are upheld, you can see why such an approach is worth taking for City. You can see those wheels turning desperately in their minds, just as you might imagine the popcorn being munched in Newcastle when the proceedings start on Monday.

City have dominated the Premier League in recent years, but a victory for them against the Premier League could actually work in the favour of some of their rivals

City have dominated the Premier League in recent years, but a victory for them against the Premier League could actually work in the favour of some of their rivals

Mail Sport columnist Riath Al-Samarrai feels a win for City against the Premier League could end up seeing them lose out to Newcastle

Mail Sport columnist Riath Al-Samarrai feels a win for City against the Premier League could end up seeing them lose out to Newcastle

They have made for a fascinating case study in the past two years and eight months since the Saudis came in. The consequence of City’s success and the scrutiny of their rise made it harder for anyone who followed, specifically Newcastle. 

Financial loopholes were tightened through necessity, weak points in the rules buffed up and new ones brought in, like those around APT and Profit and Sustainability (PSR) and other dusty letters. Our game has increasingly been determined by how those abbreviations are interpreted, which is a shame matched only by the disgrace of the Premier League in their belated realisation of what has happened to their grand temple of avarice.

And for all that, Newcastle have been forced to play a waiting game, spending more than they did, making gains up the table, but curtailed by rules that kept certain rungs out of reach. It was in August last year when their chief executive, Darren Eales, was asked if the rules were akin to a set of handcuffs.

‘If you are trying to be an upwardly mobile club, it makes it a huge challenge,’ Eales said that day. ‘As an ownership group, we are process driven and we are patient. We are going to invest but the PSR regime undoubtedly makes it more challenging than if it wasn’t there. It would certainly be easier (without it).’

So good old City, taking on the status quo from the humble position of four straight league titles. Good old City for not only removing any scintilla of doubt about who they truly are but also hand delivering the nail file that could allow Newcastle to taste that free air. Ironically, that’s quite sporting of them, if you think about it.

But City winning their case could help Newcastle, while star player Kevin De Bruyne has also hinted that he could leave City soon

But City winning their case could help Newcastle, while star player Kevin De Bruyne has also hinted that he could leave City soon

Pep Guardiola is also expected to leave next summer, which could signal the end of City's era of dominance

Pep Guardiola is also expected to leave next summer, which could signal the end of City’s era of dominance

This is a desperately strange time for City and the game in general, somewhat encapsulated by the one-hour period on Tuesday when news of their lawsuit dropped in The Times in the moments after Kevin De Bruyne was quoted saying that he, like so many, was drawn to the idea of Saudi riches. This coming season could be his last at the club and it’s understood Pep Guardiola is working to the same timeline.

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EXCLUSIVE

At least THREE clubs – including Newcastle – back Man City’s legal case against the Premier League

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How would we have viewed City if those missionaries of beauty weren’t there? How would we weigh the alleged goings-on at the club had they not benefited from such acceptable faces on the field?

Many of us have fallen between those stools of enjoying their sporting perfection and disliking what it represents, but I suspect the balance will shift a notch when a few key individuals go. Those admirers might just jump from one column to another, as if directed by a creative accountant.

Naturally, these sorts of thoughts have annoyed City. They said as much this week, with the club’s chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, admitting some frustration during an in-house interview that their every achievement has been accompanied by ‘references’ to those charges. Let’s call it the tyranny of referencing then and all cry a river for Manchester City in their twin pursuits of exoneration and distortion.

We don’t yet know what exactly was in their books or if they acted outside the rules on their way to taking over the game. But we can say with some certainty that their understanding of tyranny and tyrants sits beyond most sensible definitions. They might be well advised to try that mirror again, or to listen to the muffled chuckling from under their bed. 

 

Coco calls for VAR in tennis 

A few hours after Wolves lost 19-1 in a vote to scrap VAR, Coco Gauff called for its introduction to tennis at the French Open. 

I’m tempted to invest in a book about moths as a means of establishing once and for all why they are so enamoured with flames.

Coco Gauff (left) argued with the umpire following a controversial call during her semi-final defeat by Iga Swiatek, and later called for VAR to be brought into tennis

Coco Gauff (left) argued with the umpire following a controversial call during her semi-final defeat by Iga Swiatek, and later called for VAR to be brought into tennis

 

Maguire will be missed

To look over an England squad that is both exciting and lopsided in its distribution of talent, one thought comes to mind ahead of the Euros: it is a sad irony that Harry Maguire is only truly appreciated in his absence.

Harry Maguire has been ruled out of the Euros due to injury, and England will miss him this summer

Harry Maguire has been ruled out of the Euros due to injury, and England will miss him this summer

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