By John Brindley
Whilst working on his autobiography, the amiable and very popular owner of Doncaster Rovers John Ryan made an interesting confession.
“It wouldn’t matter to the fans if Attila the Hun was running their football club as long as he provided lots of money.”
Those words become even more meaningful today in the light of current revelations over the running of Premier League champions Manchester City.
For Attila the Hun, read the Abu Dhabi elite. The men who run City are key lieutenants of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with chief among them being Khaldoon Al Mubarak, club chairman since 2008.
The club is nominally owned by Sheikh Mansour Al Nayan, a name revered by City fans as they have piled up the trophies in recent years, but so keen on the beautiful game that he only attended one game in his first nine years at the helm.
The accusations currently circulating about City are largely financial.
In short, they are being put in the dock for a spot of creative accounting, reportedly claiming monies were accrued exclusively from sponsors when they may instead have been from the owners and therefore contravened UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations.
To be honest, none of that seriously worries me.
It’s par for the course that the richest know how to milk the system, whether be stretching the limits of the law or far exceeding it.
Instead what should concern City fans – and football fans generally – far more is this: what sort of people are running their club?
In City’s case, their links with the Abu Dhabi royals should be sufficient to choke even their most blinkered of supporters.
Abi Dhabi is the wealthiest and most powerful of the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan controls Abu Dhabi and dictates policy.
Did Attila the Hun ever surpass the atrocities currently being committed in Yemen?
Abu Dhabi has played a key role in the wilful and needless destruction of one of the world’s poorest countries and bears significant responsibility for the humanitarian disaster taking place there.
The Saudi-led coalition has bombed schools, hospitals, wedding and funerals, and more than 1,000 of the 5000 civilians they have killed between March 2015 and the end of 2017 were children, according to the United Nations.
Even the most blind can appreciate how they can do with some positive publicity.
Which brings me to what I consider to be surely the main moral issue, one that puts financial wrongdoings into the shade.
The success of Manchester City Football Club has already cost billions – but that’s a small price to pay for keeping the name of Abu Dhabi away from bad headlines.
For just as BBC journalists were reportedly told that too much negative reporting of Abu Dhabi affairs wouldn’t help them gain access to the players for interviews, the public and City fans in particular are being seduced by cash.
Naturally it’s very difficult to prove but the most likely reason the Abu Dhabi elite took interest in a previously failing football club was to put a cloak of respectability over their sordid international affairs.
Let’s face it, they scarcely needed the money. Take just a cursory look at some of net losses of over £491 million over their first five seasons in charge and you take my point.
And surely they can’t have hated Manchester United that much or been in such love with the beautiful game that they felt compelled to share their fortune?
The problem in football isn’t finance and it isn’t Manchester City.
The common denominator among the owners of Premier League clubs and others in the English Football League is that they are either billionaires or aspiring to it – but very few know how they have made their money.
Perhaps some good will come from shining the spotlight on Manchester City and Abu Dhabi.
It’s time football supporters thought twice about the people they are idolising.
For only by ordinary men and women withdrawing their favour can football in England return to being first and foremost an enjoyable sport.
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