Manchester City: Winning, but at what cost?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Manchester City FC’s Crisis: Financial Irregularities, Governance Issues, and the Implications for Football


Manchester City FC, a club revered worldwide, has been enmeshed in a web of controversies and governance crises. In the last decade, the club’s conduct, especially concerning financial matters, has come under intense scrutiny. Ranging from financial fair play (FFP) violations to alarming recruitment practices, these controversies have not only tainted the club’s image but have also sparked widespread discussions on the efficacy of football’s regulatory bodies.


Among the many issues that have plagued the club, financial irregularities have been the most prominent. The FFP regulations introduced by UEFA aim to ensure financial stability within European football. Unfortunately, Manchester City FC has been accused on multiple occasions of disregarding these rules. A pivotal case emerged in 2014 when the club was penalised with a €60 million fine and a transfer spending cap for breaching FFP rules. While the punishment was later reduced on appeal, the incident highlighted the club’s apparent disregard for financial regulations.

Further, in 2018, leaked documents revealed the club’s alleged attempts to bypass FFP regulations by inflating sponsorship deals. These revelations triggered another UEFA investigation, leading to a €30 million fine and a temporary ban from participating in the UEFA Champions League. The ban was later lifted, but the club’s reputation had already taken a significant hit.

In addition to financial irregularities, Manchester City’s recruitment practices, particularly concerning young players, have been a source of concern. The club was found to have violated rules regarding the signing of underage players, leading to a two-year prohibition from signing academy players.

However, the most shocking revelation came in 2023, when it was revealed that Manchester City FC had allegedly broken an unprecedented number of 115 regulations. Among these alleged breaches were undisclosed payments to agents, misreporting of transfer fees, improper approaches and inducements made to young talents, thus undermining the fairness of the game and exploiting the vulnerabilities of aspiring footballers.

Notably, the club’s lack of cooperation and transparency during these investigations amplified the gravity of the allegations. The sheer scale of the purported breaches points to a deep-seated governance crisis within the club, raising serious questions about its internal controls, ethical standards, and the competence of its oversight governance mechanisms.

The implications of these controversies extend far beyond Manchester City FC. The entire football community has been rattled, and the faith in football’s governing bodies has been severely undermined. The alleged violations have sparked discussions around the effectiveness of the current FFP regulations and the enforcement mechanisms in place.

We would initially recommend three actions are taken.

1. Financial monitoring is strengthened: Football governing bodies should increase the frequency and intensity of financial audits on clubs to ensure adherence to FFP regulations. Such regular and thorough checks would provide an early warning of financial irregularities. In addition, governing bodies should work closely with financial authorities and employ financial experts to bolster the credibility and efficiency of these audits. The Government intends to introduce a new independent regulator to govern various aspects of the top five tiers of English football. The Regulator’s purpose will be to ensure the continued resilience and sustainability of football clubs but will it have enough powers of those of UEFA and the FA and how will it work in practice?

 2. Transparency is increased: Football governing bodies should strive for greater transparency in their governance and decision-making processes. This would involve publicly sharing more detailed information about how decisions related to FFP and club governance are made. Additionally, these governing bodies should demand higher transparency levels from the clubs, including the need for more detailed public reporting of financial transactions, especially those related to player transfers and sponsorship deals.

 3. Stronger sanctions are implemented: The severity of penalties for non-compliance with FFP and governance rules should be revisited. While it’s crucial to ensure punishments are proportional and fair, the current sanction system may not deter clubs with substantial financial backing. Therefore, football governing bodies should consider stricter penalties that could include longer bans from competitions, larger fines, or even point deductions. These stronger sanctions would underline the importance of adherence to the rules and discourage clubs from attempting to manipulate or bypass the system.

Football Governance

The proposed new Football Governance Code could address several issues related to Manchester City FC, especially in terms of financial oversight and competitive balance. The code aims to create a fairer, more sustainable sporting landscape by enforcing strict financial regulations, potentially curtailing the unchecked spending power of wealthier clubs like City. Furthermore, the governance code plans to increase transparency in club operations and ownership, providing clearer insight into the club’s financial affairs. This would directly tackle criticism directed towards Manchester City over allegations of financial fair play breaches. Additionally, the code promotes more equitable distribution of broadcasting revenues, which could help level the playing field for all clubs in the competition.

Despite its intentions, the new Football Governance Code could fall short in certain aspects. Notably, its impact on fostering genuine competition may be limited. While the code seeks to curb financial imbalances, clubs like Manchester City, with established wealth and top-tier talent, may still enjoy significant advantages over less financially robust teams. Additionally, the implementation and enforcement of such codes present a significant challenge. Regulatory bodies must have the resources and authority to effectively monitor and penalize violations, which has often been a challenge in football governance. Finally, the code’s focus on financial regulation may overlook other critical issues, such as addressing racism, improving player welfare, and fostering grassroots football. Thus, while the new code is a step in the right direction, it may not fully resolve the complex issues affecting modern football.


Manchester City FC’s longstanding financial and recruitment controversies have exposed a disturbing governance crisis within the club, shaking faith in football’s regulatory bodies. The recurrent disregard for financial regulations and questionable recruitment practices undermine the spirit of fair competition and demonstrate the urgent need for stricter governance measures. While the proposed Football Governance Code is a promising start, it needs to be comprehensive, rigorous, and equipped with stringent enforcement mechanisms. Football bodies should work towards stronger financial monitoring, increased transparency, and harsher sanctions to restore trust and ensure a fairer, more sustainable future for the sport. The lessons learned from Manchester City’s cases should be a catalyst for deep-rooted change across all football governance. The sanctity of the sport depends on the ability to uphold ethical standards, respect financial fairness, and protect the integrity of competition.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top