Manchester City chief Khaldoon Al Mubarak has vowed that they will win their war with Uefa — and has launched a searing attack on the club’s critics.
In a measured yet stinging offensive, the under-fire club’s chairman declared that ‘the facts will prevail’ and branded criticism of City and fellow Emirate-owned Paris Saint-Germain by outspoken La Liga president Javier Tebas as hypocritical and with racist undertones.
In what represents a significant shift onto the front foot Al Mubarak, the first executive from the Premier League champions to speak publicly over Uefa’s investigation into the club’s alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play Rules, also took aim at rival outfits in England for briefing against City to the media and claimed the probe into his club is an attack on the Premier League.
During an at times explosive end of season interview brimming with indignation, the 44-year-old gave a robust defence of under-fire City’s spending and claimed others were using his club as a diversionary tactic to drag attention away from their own ineptitude.
The domestic treble-winners are facing the threat of being banned from the 2020-21 Champions League after Uefa announced earlier this month that their investigation had been referred to adjudicators to determine a sanction. City will appeal any such punishment, with the case set to end up with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Al Mubarak is confident that the truth will out.
“Am I uncomfortable? he asked. “No. I respect regulatory bodies doing their job and any regulatory process that asks questions. We have to professionally respond which is what we have done. We have clear answers. I believe, quite comfortably, if the process is going to be judged on facts then unquestionably we will prevail. If it’s not about facts and it’s about other things, then it is a different conversation.”
“But I strongly hope that these regulatory bodies will ultimately make the decision based on facts. The reality is we have dealt with this before, with Uefa, this is not the first time we have dealt with it. We are going through the appropriate steps and we’re confident in our position, very comfortable in our position. I’m not concerned about that because facts will prevail.”
Tebas, a Real Madrid fan, has often been a leading sceptic and recently accused Abu Dhabi-owned City and Qatar-owned PSG of causing massive damage to European football with their ‘petrol money’.
“I think there’s something deeply wrong in bringing ethnicity into the conversation,” Mubarak hit back. “This is just ugly. I think the way he is combining teams because of ethnicity. I find that very disturbing to be honest.”
Al Mubarak also slated Tebas’s claims that City’s spending had inflated transfer prices.
“He talks about how we distorted the market? he said. “There is a hypocrisy in this statement that is ironic. Let’s look at the Spanish league, the time of breaking records on player acquisitions, I mean, who started that? Let’s go back to the world records, Figo, Zidane. These huge jumps in these transfers, where did they happen? In the top ten transfers of all time, Manchester City has not a single player in that, not a single one… I think people with glass homes shouldn’t be throwing rocks.”
Al Mubarak believes Tebas is trying to spearhead a campaign against the success of the Premier League.
“I think there is a clear attack on the Premier League and that has been consistent coming from that way,” he said. “Let’s not forget this is the best league in the world and if you look at this season, there is no better testament to this statement where the two European competitions, the finals are being competed by English clubs – that’s a fact and that bothers a lot of people in many places.”
He also called on City’s domestic rivals to respond.
“We have the best league in the world,” he said. “We have the most commercial league in the world, the most successful clubs in the world, economically, commercially in terms of global presence, and that’s why this attack is not just on Manchester City , it’s against this league. And I hope people start seeing that and start — I know people don’t want to defend Manchester City — but for God’s sake start defending this league.”
City completed a sweep of the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup this season, and Al Mubarak believes others are trying to jump on the investigation to cover their own inadequacies.
“I will not accept for this club to be used as a diversionary tactic on poor investment decisions from other clubs,” he said. “People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. We’ve managed ourselves well and we will be judged by facts and facts alone. This is a well-run club. That’s a fact; a well-managed wage to revenue ratio that compares to some of the best run clubs in his league, La Liga but frankly in all of European football.”
In March, Liverpool’s chiefs were among a group of American owners in English football’s top flight who pushed the Premier League to join Uefa in investigating allegations of financial cheating by Manchester City. It is something which has clearly angered Al Mubarak. “With success, there is a certain level of jealously, envy, whatever you call it, that’s part of the game,” he said. “You know when Manchester United dominated the Premier League for many years, they know what they had to deal with for so many years, that’s part of the game. It’s not easy for our competition we know that; and by the way, the football world is very small and word comes around very quickly so you know, when someone somewhere in a leading position in any club says something, or briefs something, guess what?
“We know about it. The reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League, we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper, we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker, so when people throw that, you know what they throw at us, I go back- let’s look at facts; let’s talk about facts.”
City, initially fined in 2014 for FFP breaches, have been facing a Champions League ban since a series of revelations by whistleblowing hackers Football Leaks were published by German magazine Der Speigel last year. They alleged City falsely declared millions in sponsorship deals when the cash had actually come from its own owners. Uefa’s FFP rules place a limit on how much each club’s owner can directly inject.
Football Leaks also claimed City hid £30.74m in costs from Uefa investigators. City handed in a 100-page defence and claimed the decision to refer the probe to adjudicators contained ‘mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions’.