Manchester City: Changing the Face of English Football

Manchester City: Changing the Face of English Football


It is fair to say that while Chelsea may be viewed as the first of English football’s Nouveau Riche clubs, piggybacking on the benevolence of their billionaire owner Roman Abramovich to Premier League success, not even Abramovich himself, nor the Premier League authorities could have foreseen what this would eventually lead to.

When Manchester City’s new owners first took over the club as a signal of their intentions they signed up Real Madrid’s Brazilian ace Robinho, with the owner of the club paying for the transfer via his credit card to ensure the deal went through.

Looking back that transfer should have been ample warning that under their new owners, then called the Abu Dhabi United Group, but now named City Football Group, things would be different: Very different.

As since then, City have continued to push through the barriers and boundaries of English football and they, along with Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in particular, have taken the game on to a whole new level. But it is the peculiar effect of Manchester City that has without doubt shaped the game at the highest level in England.

And not necessarily for the better.

So what are the notable effects that Manchester City’s limitless wealth have had upon the game in England?

1. Transfer Fees

The first major effect that City had on the game in England was to push the expected value of players up considerably. When the new owners were bidding £20m to £30m for players who were not worth half that amount, it pushes up prices across the board.

Few fans of any club side have a problem with the club spending £24m on Yaya Toure, £25m on David Silva or even £38m on Sergio Aguero. However it is the feathering of their nest with ‘squad players’ of the likes of £22m on Joleon Lescott, £26m on James Milner, £15m on Jack Rodwell and £25.8m on Stefan Jovetic that are the real issue.

These players, who barely featured for City last season apart from James Milner who records will state made 27 Premier League appearances for City, however only 12 of those came as a starter. 15 were as a substitute.

The result of this has been the inevitable rise in transfers and while few fans will bemoan clubs paying top prices for top talent, the knock on effect is that less skilled and particularly English born players are now moving for ridiculous amounts of money. Would you pay £2m more to sign James Milner ahead of Yaya Toure?

Spiralling fees have been offset by increases in TV revenue and Champions League revenue for the top sides, plus improving sponsorship deals. But there is no doubt that the spiralling costs of transfers in the British game can be traced back to City’s five year spending splurge.

Perhaps most saliently, City spent considerably more in the past six years than Sir Alex Ferguson spent in his entire 25-year career at Manchester United.

2. Wages

With rising transfer fees comes the inevitability of increasing wages and Manchester City are setting new standards here, not just in football, but across the sporting world.

The 2013-2014 Manchester City squad were the best paid sporting team in the world in any sport.

At a time when rivals like Chelsea were cutting their wage bill to comply with UEFA Fair Play regulations (more on that later), City’s average first team player earned £5.3m a year (£102,653 per week).

It is worth remembering here that this figure includes first team squad players. Including several that barely made an appearance in the first team last season.

Of course, if you are a player, then on the one hand, a wage well beyond what your skills actually merit is certainly a good thing, but what effect does that have on your career when you aren’t in the team?

Take Joleon Lescott, Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell, three English born players who spent last season with City almost entirely in the stand or at best, on the bench. These are players that would certainly help improve fortunes at almost any other Premier League club.

However, these players are priced out of a move, not so much because of their transfer cost, but because of their wages. Sunderland have signed Jack Rodwell, but you can bet Gus Poyet’s negotiations were 99% spent on resolving the issue of how the Black Cats could afford to pay Rodwell’s salary, which is vastly inflated by his largely anonymous spell at Manchester City.

This is why when players move away from City, they have to be prepared either to take a wage cut, or broker into the deal (especially if it is a loan deal) for City to pay the remainder of the wages that the other club cannot afford.

At this point, you should think to yourself that UEFA’s Financial Fair Play directive was aimed to stop precisely this, but we’ll examine how effective it has been shortly.

3. Effects on Players – Notably English players and young players at the club

Spend big on players and you get yourself success. Chelsea have done it, City have done it, United have done it and to a lesser extent Arsenal and even Blackburn have done it in the Premier League era.

However, the continual spending of huge sums of money on players does take its toll on English players and also young players at clubs trying to forge a career for themselves in the game.

The pressure is on managers to win at all costs and that is what City have done. Of their current squad, only Micah Richards and John Guidetti came through the ranks at the club and both of these players are being strongly linked with a move away due to a lack of playing time.

Young players at Manchester City (and other clubs) now have almost no chance of progressing into the first team unless they are truly exceptional. This cuts the flow of emerging talent at top clubs almost to the point of standstill.

As a result, the young English talent that does exist, usually comes at a premium price well in excess of what a club would want to pay for a player. Everton quoted a telephone number price when the sale of Ross Barkley was mentioned recently, yet clubs like City will pay this as it enables them to meet the “home grown” quota of players needed in legislation for the Premier League and European competitions.

The net result is that clubs at the highest level tend not to develop their own talent any more in England. Instead entrusting their future to expensively assembled players from abroad with a smattering of English talent procured at huge expense.

Yet does this guarantee success? Think back over some of the best teams of recent times, the Manchester United team of the 1990s and the current Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams and you’ll realise that bringing through talented youth players has played a huge part in these teams success.

4. UEFA Financial Fair Play

Manchester City and Paris St-Germain were both found guilty of breaching the new UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations regarding how much the club spends on wages and transfers compared to their net earnings.

City’s main problem was that they had a number of sponsorship deals from companies owned by the same group that owned Manchester City and that these deals had been used to ensure City reached the ‘break even’ figure.

However, UEFA felt that the figures City had been paid had been artificially inflated to allow City to meet the regulations. City denied this but chose not to contest the decision, no doubt in due to UEFA’s ludicrous ‘punishment’ handed out to the club.

As ridiculous as it seems, a team with unlimited financial resources and criticised for over-spending, was fined £49m, along with having their Champions League squad reduced to 21 players for the next season.

What is clear here is that UEFA have not got the teeth required to mete out punishments that would actually deter the wealthiest clubs in the world from ignoring the system or bending the rules to try and circumvent them.

The punishment administered to City and Paris St-Germain is a non-punishment and will not impact the clubs in any way. A £49m fine would certainly hurt a club with limited resources. PSG and City have the wherewithal to pay this, probably by credit card if they chose to do so.

For Financial Fair Play to work, UEFA has to have the guts to hit teams that breach these terms in the only way that would hurt them. Disqualifying them from all European competitions until they prove they are operating within Financial Fair Play guidelines.

However, UEFA are loathe to do this because if they take on Europe’s biggest clubs, then the threat of a breakaway European Super League, separate from UEFA, looms ever closer.

5. Owning Other Teams in Other Countries.

Manchester City also own the new MLS franchise New York City and already the owners have been busy snapping up quality players for the new franchise. David Villa was snapped up during the World Cup from Atletico Madrid and following the tournament Frank Lampard left Chelsea to join the new franchise.

However, with the MLS season not kicking off until January, Lampard has now been loaned out to retain his fitness to Manchester City.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has already criticised the move stating it is simply a way for City to avoid Financial Fair Play rules. He is absolutely right.

In brokering this whole deal, City have removed a top player from a Premier League rival, signed him for their sister club, sold a fringe player (Rodwell to Sunderland) for £10m and then brought in Lampard to replace him for free.

The result? City are £10m up, they have signed an experienced, talented player who helps them fulfil the home grown quota for the Champions League and they have weakened a rival in the process.

So where will it end? Will New York City sign up Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie or John Terry next summer, then loan them back to City to ‘retain fitness”? It’s happened once before, what is stopping them doing it again next summer?

Manchester City’s effect on English football is huge. How they conduct their business may not always breach rules, but it certainly bends them and means that football authorities are facing some new challenges that test whether ‘fair play’ is generally being adhered to.

However, until effective sanctions are in place to stop them, City will continue to push the boundaries of what can be done in the game. With limitless resources, driving ambition and a willingness to bend the rules to breaking point, City are forging a new path for English football.

It’s one for the long term benefit of Manchester City, and not necessarily for the benefit of the English game.

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  1. What a bias , one sided, clouded, jealous utd fan written piece of rubbish!! Green eyed monster rears it’s ugly head as the debt ridden over-hyped conglomerate slowly descends into oblivion ! No European football no money, no passion, no REAL fans!!!

  2. Rubbish. United had been pushing up transfer fees long before us – Ferdinand cost £30 million, ffs, back in 2002; the equivalent fee now would be £43 million.


    Indeed, United consistently beat transfer records during Ferguson’s reign. And it wasn’t City who paid £50 million for Torres or indeed, £35 million for Donkey Carroll. To suggest that it is City who have caused the increase in transfer fees is ridiculous – indeed, I believe that United and Liverpool have both spent more than us over the past three years.

    I should also remind you that it was NOT City who turned football into big business; no, that was the likes of United, Barca, Real, Arsenal and Chelsea. All City have done is join in the fun, and now we are being blamed for all the ills of the game.

    “How they conduct their business may not always breach rules but it certainly bends them ”

    Some details please – apart, that is, from your say so.

    Over to you. Very poor article, which shows NIL awareness of how football became big business. I suggest you do some reading, starting with David Conn’s “The Football Business”, which among other things (for example, detailing the murky details of how the Bent Butcher got hold of United, but more importantly, details how United and co hijacked the formation of what was to be called the FA Premier League, and as a result, funnelled huge sums of TV money their way.

    Poor article. Very poor.

    • Well said Jeremy Poynton. The article reflects the tired, old, regurgitated words and arguments of a Platini lackey on behalf of the Establishment.
      CTID and proud of it ! The quasi Cartel must be challenged for the better of all the clubs.

    • Unbelievable that this garbage is on the net.
      Clubs like Everton held city to ransom just double the price for city cash in lads…what about the money city poured into other clubs then,maybe kept one or two afloat?
      Wages?…how much is Rooney on?
      You bang on about players who are either injured or not good enough.Is city the only club that has this common problem?
      Research can help Ben,more than just Micah and guidetti floating around the club,No need to mention the new academy then!!
      We all know the real reason ffp was introduced.
      It is not the lack of guts by uefa,and concerned by a break away league.Simply it would not stand up in court if a club challenged it.
      Again a little research will show that both the MLS and the A league in Australia have salary caps!! here in Australia only two marquee players are permitted and the cap is only a 3-4 can they possibly do as you say?
      And finally Chelsea chose to let lampard go before he signed for New York…yet city weaken a rival!!
      Give it away Ben you simply aren’t up to it.

  3. In addition to FLB, Jeremy Poynton, tearing the article to pieces, I would like to add that Stefan Jovetic was injured for the majority of last season, the other three players you mention are English, and as well aknow, you have to pay a premium for English players, see Llalana, Shaw etc etc etc.

    A shocking article.

    • Intelligent and articulate response. Is that what you always day to those you disagree with? Or is it just that you are stupid?

  4. Well, that’s a balanced article.

    As stated above, because City wanted to break into the elite we’ve had to invest in the club. No mention of the new world class training facilities that will hopefully in turn provide a conveyor belt of local, British and World talent.

    It seems that clubs irrespective of their current quality command greater investment than successful teams winning trophies if you look at United’s recent sponsorship deals which are much larger than City’s. Where’s the fair play in that?

  5. The ills of the modern game were there for all to see before City joined the top table. To blame City for inflated transfer fees and wages is naïve and ignorant. There is a nice one-eyed convenience in this article to try and prove a point. You need to look at the self proclaimed ‘elite cartel’ of Europe to see where the real protagonists of the modern game and its current state lie.

  6. So many incorrect points in this, one has to wonder whether Ben actually is a reporter of note or just another idiot who believes what they read in papers like the Sun or Daily Mail.
    You obviously haven’t seen Jovetic play.
    You have an issue with £22 million for an English player who plays for his national side, but not an issue with £24 million for Herrera who can’t even get in his national side. We didn’t pay £35 million for Carroll either, but again that is ok with you and £30 million for a defender in 2002 was already changing the face or transfer fees. You do know there is a direct correlation between wages and likelihood of that team winning the league. You pay more wages you win leagues.
    The main issue with City and FFP was the fact they were told that transfer fees and wages for players bought before FFP was introduced would not count. After City provided accounts UEFA decided to change that rule thereby automatically ensuring City failed FFP, almost as if the rule was specifically there to trap City.

    Man City do not own any other club, the company that owns City also own NYCFC, but this has nothing to do with City. Frank was a free agent and moved to NYCFC, however like Henry, Donovan etc he is now playing in England to keep fit.

  7. Jeremy Poynton is correct. The constant sniping at City is wearisome and the use of selective memory predictable.
    To claim the signing of Frank Lampard weakened a Premier League rival is hilarious. You stated that :
    >In brokering this whole deal, City have removed a top player from a Premier League rival<
    He was a free agent, Chelsea did not want him any more!
    In his place what would you have done? The real root of all this is that the status quo at the top of the premier league now have their revenue streams under threat and that is to be resisted by whatever means possible by those clubs and their acolytes.
    Surely Ben Holmes sees that the Premier League needs clubs like City, rather than the boring 2-team leagues in Europe?
    And yes, UEFA do need to be careful, a European Super League is always just under the surface.

  8. It’s only sad that UEFA can’t do jack about it. Until now, i respect Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal and that is because they are “English Football”. They respect the culture of the English football. That is what happened to the Italian league.. moving from the richest league of all time a league that is hardly even watched these days.

    The FA in itself is doing nothing about it. They should expect a farming league in time to come for the EPL.

    Pathetic but Sad.. The saying still holds, ‘Money Can’t buy class’

  9. Hey Ben….. lots of people like you decide to throw a hand grenade in to the mix and then stand back to see what happens. So what is your response to Jeremy ? Are City as an organisation simply more intelligent than the rest ? Have clubs like United, Liverpool, Arsenal not been doing this for decades and only when somebody else stirs up the hornet’s nest do they complain ?
    Who pays your wages mate ?

  10. This is one weak article derived from the authors opinion which your entitled to! But that doesn’t mean it it true and you can guarantee the drones from other clubs will believe it because they are drones! As a city fan I will make my own opinions on my club which I am well informed of and more than happy with! Don’t get bitter get even enjoy the season all I will. CTID

  11. Absolute rubbish! Utd,Chelski,etc turned football into big business yrs ago before we came along, the only difference is our owner is a damn sight more wealthy and thats why nobody likes us, in short, jealousy. Jeremy you are so right we didnt pay 35mil for that waste of space Carroll or 50mil for Torres thats what drives prices up, yet another excuse to have a go, do you know what? old news This kind of article is old news Im am so used to them I dont care what people like you think I support a wonderful Club so well run the future is great.

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