The lawsuit against Manchester City has the power to blow up the house of the Premier League

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This week, in an undisclosed location in central London, the final stages of the Premier League’s civil war begin to unfold. The arbitration case brought by Manchester City against the league of which they are champions is expected to last two weeks and will be dry and the judgment technical. However, the consequences will likely be anything but.

City, owned by Sheikh Mansour, the vice-president and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, will argue before a panel of three independent lawyers that the Premier League is breaking UK law.

The violation in question relates to rules surrounding Associated Party Transactions, or APTs, and the need for clubs to ensure that any deals they make with companies that “materially influence the club or an entity in the same group of companies as the club” are minted at fair market value. City claims this is contrary to competition law. That’s the dry part.

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The matter will be heard privately and there will be no public acknowledgment of any outcome or the reasons for it. However, thanks to reporting in the Times, we do know something about the contents of City’s legal submission, and by all accounts it seems quite extraordinary. The action brought against the Premier League board under the obscure rule x.5.4 could almost be seen as a Trojan horse that challenges the entire existing structure of the competition.

According to reports, City are not only challenging the APT rules but are also seeking damages for deals affected or lost as a result. This compensation would have to be paid by the League, whose shareholders are the twenty member clubs.

City also claim the rules were intended to hinder Gulf owners and members of multi-club groups – something that applies to City in both cases – and were only introduced due to rivals’ desire to “safeguard their own commercial benefits to set’. .

City even argue that the Premier League itself has a vested interest in restricting APTs because it is a rival in terms of sponsorship income and if the rules are not changed the newly crowned champions could be forced to cut spending on community projects and women’s team.

Finally, City argue that any restriction of competition is supported by the Premier League’s voting system. According to City, the fact that no rule can be changed without fourteen of the twenty clubs agreeing is succumbing to the “tyranny of the majority”. All told, the claim runs to 165 pages.

This legal submission was made in February, immediately after the Premier League adopted new, stricter rules around APTs (City’s dissatisfaction with the rules predated this change). In legal terms, there is no link to the 115 charges against City for alleged financial misconduct. In political terms the calculation is very different.

What does it mean for the world’s biggest football league if it repeatedly comes into conflict with the champion of six of the previous seven seasons? At the very least, it means uncertainty about the rules, which are directly at issue, and about the league’s ability to regulate its own competition.

In this way, City’s challenge is merely hitting an existing bruise. Last season the rules, whether they revolved around VAR or PSR, were subject to constant criticism and pressure. At the same time, the Premier League has spent time and resources fending off the arrival of an independent football regulator, insisting that football can look after itself. As time goes by, this argument seems more and more tendentious.

Some critics of the Premier League see the APT rules as a classic example of poor governance, a mechanism hastily put in place to address a short-term problem (a new focus on APTs began after Newcastle was bought by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund).

They also point out that the league was forced to change plans to introduce further financial rules, the so-called Top to Bottom Anchoring proposals (ironically TBA for short), after failing to properly consult with external stakeholders, including the PFA, the players’ union. . The critics argue that this is a trend and that City’s actions only reinforce the government’s position.

Manchester City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega feels ‘motivated and challenged’ after signing a one-year contract extension. The 31-year-old German, who joined the club in 2022, has extended his stay until 2026.

Ortega is City’s back-up goalkeeper but played a big role in their recent title triumph. He made a fine save to deny Son Heung-min and Spurs an equalizer after replacing the injured Ederson. He made his twentieth appearance of the campaign in the FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United.

“I’m happy to stay at Manchester City longer,” he said. ‘This is a football club that offers players everything we need to get the best out of ourselves. Since I came here two years ago, I have improved as a goalkeeper. My family is really based here in England, I love everything here. By signing this deal, I can now concentrate 100% on next season and beyond.”

“This is a crucial contract extension,” said City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain. “Stefan is the best number two goalkeeper we have ever had and offers us quality, stability and experience. He is highly skilled and it is clear that he has contributed significantly to our success since coming here.” PA media

On a more sympathetic reading, however, the Premier League’s position could be insulting. The country faces challenges from all sides, not only from domestic regulations and traditional competitors in other leagues and sports, but also from governing bodies UEFA and FIFA expanding their own competitions in ways that not only make them direct rivals for broadcasting of money, but also puts pressure on the domestic calendar.

The shareholder clubs have now split into increasingly larger factions, with multiple opposing views; from those that are part of a multi-club ownership group, for example, to those that have been acquired by investment funds with prospects very different from those of the sovereign wealth funds.

Manchester City has the profile and financial weight to make the situation in the Premier League very painful. Their resort to legal action, whether sincere or simply provocative, signals a club intent on changing the current state of affairs.

And this is perhaps the biggest concern that has emerged recently. One of the key factors behind the Premier League’s success in its 32-year history has been the centering of the collective, from the way the league is marketed (“anyone can beat anyone on any given day”) to the way power and money are manipulated. shared.

City’s actions suggest that the champions no longer subscribe to this way of thinking and want to change it. It may seem unlikely, but it could be a house-crashing shift.

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