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Manchester City and European Football arrive at the moment of settlement

MANCHESTER, England – Remove jargon and euphemisms and disorienting forests of acronyms, tune noise out of claim and counter-proposal and rigid denial, choose your way through strenuous details and tangled little things and a simple truth will appear. Last week's report that UEFA is studying not as much revolution as a full crown jewel reset, the Champions League, is not the right story about the competition format. The New York Times report on Monday that Manchester City can be banned from the same tournament is not a story about breaking the rules or misleading financial statements or harmful leaks.

Both are much wider and much easier to understand in a way. Both are about fighting for control, between UEFA – the body that has been overseeing European football for decades – and the world-flourishing, extravagantly rich superclubs that provide most of their revenue. They are both about power and who can exercise it. And both are about who runs the football – on whose behalf and for the benefit of which

Last week, in the midst of perhaps the most dramatic few days that the Champions League has ever created in its current incarnation, most European major leagues have gone against a plan to change competition. UEFA immediately insisted that this was only part of the consultation process. Everyone would comment. It was just an idea. Nothing was embedded in stone. Panic retreated. Fury faded. Nothing has changed, not now: Tottenham defeated Ajax, the Champions League was still as good as ever. The World Turned

On Tuesday, Manchester City reiterated its refusal to commit any wrongdoing. Ever since the accusations first appeared on the Football Cliffs Platform, the club has steadfastly rejected all allegations that it deliberately inflated sponsorship deals to comply with the so-called UEFA financial fair play rules created to manage club spending. 19659002] In a statement that described allegations of all financial laws as "totally false", City said it was extremely concerned about the fact that The Times cited "people familiar with the case".

Being a "good faith" club in independent investigators who have UEFA, Manchester City has been wrong, said Manchester City, or "the process has been distorted by individuals who wanted to damage the club's reputation and business interests." Or both. "UEFA has not commented on the Times article.

Focusing on the existence of leakage, even though there is no debate about the validity of financial fair play rules, misses whether European football needs someone to say to the owners how to spend their money – and, as well as dispute, whether the Champions League would be better or worse if played on a week ago.

It is not ridiculous to think that FFP is an inherently anti-competitive measure. It is not absurd to believe that owners should be able to spend everything they like on their toy, and it is not crazy to feel that clubs should be able to gamble with their existence on the whim of a benefactor, or that the whole building has been protected and anchoring the primacy of an established elite. The rules, as they are now, may not be right.

The conversion truth is also true: There is a completely logical case to make F.F.P. It is good that clubs should live within their capabilities, that long-term sports and social institutions that are deployed as prodigal projects or soft-power games or rumors for schemes with dubious human rights records are less than ideal. Rules are probably rules and clubs should follow them while lobbying to change, instead of choosing and choosing the ones they like.

The Champions League could also be better if European giants play more often. Perhaps it would be in the best interest of the game if high-quality European games and home games in the middle of the week were played at weekends. Maybe a handful of teams from Greece and Poland and Belgium doing it is just a waste of time. Or maybe not. Perhaps the European elite clubs – which have nevertheless conjured up the idea of ​​what the Champions League should look like – were unexpectedly, quite accidentally, similar to the UEFA idea are in danger of overestimating their own place. heavens. Maybe a change in the Champions League kills the golden goose. Maybe it works as it is, and there is no need to change it

It is entirely possible to make the case for all of the above, but the question of which one is the most convincing – which one, if any, is right – is not the most urgent. It is a fact that these questions now need to be asked what matters most. The importance of the Champions League Change Plan is beyond its possible impact on home tournaments. The consequences of a possible ban on Manchester City from the European competition stand much further than its Etihad Stadium

In both cases there is something much deeper at stake. These stories in their heart, once everything else is taken away – acronyms and arguments and everything else – are about who gets to European football, whose voice bears the greatest weight and who answers to whom.

Matching the Champions League to meet the requirements of the largest, richest clubs (since 2019) could fall under UEFA, but it would not be in UEFA's direction. This would suggest that the power, indeed, lies on super-clubs; that they can shape the competitions they get to their advantage; that UEFA is now just a brand, stamp, administrator, licensing commission.

If UEFA was unable to listen to the recommendations of its own investigators – if the city ban were the sanction they were looking for, it would prove that the FFP is in fact in the meantime that the growing elite Manchester City and Paris St.-Germain, supported by Abu Dhabi and Qatar, correctly violated the rules; that the clubs that built their business models around the new reality were stupid; UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, a consortium of associations from Central and Eastern Europe, far from the big five leagues, could not resist the pressure of the big money and the old elite; that ultimately UEFA did not pay attention to its own investigators and that it could or should not enforce its own rules.

This is clarity; everything else is fug

Maybe that's all the best. Perhaps it would be better if UEFA was no longer the ultimate source of power in European football. Perhaps it is time to accept that what is good for the Premier League or P.S.G is not the same, which is good for Bulgaria and Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Perhaps the era of broad churches and consensus has ended. Perhaps it is time to cut smaller country loose, stop even feigning wealth sharing. Or maybe not. Perhaps handing over the control of a superclub cartel, or allowing national states to manage teams according to their own, uncontrolled desires, runs the risk of getting rid of everyone outside of this little cage. Maybe the game should run for everyone. Either way, we approach the intersection. The direction we finally travel will tell us more than how many Champions League matches will be played during the weekend or whether Manchester City will be there. He tells us where the power is now.

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