Monday’s FFP ruling—overturning the 2-year Champions League ban for Manchester City on a technicality—was almost as shocking as UEFA going after the club for flagrant rule breaking in the first place.
Detractors of the FFP rule say that it was only designed to protect smaller clubs from overspending and bankruptcy, and moreover that it was bad for the “Big Clubs” of Europe to essentially bar other clubs from joining their ranks. While this is certainly an argument you can make, the latest ruling essentially makes FFP a toothless law, especially when dealing with billionaires with unlimited resources to spend.
It essentially creates one law for the rich and powerful, and another law for the less rich and less powerful. So, you know, par for the course in 2020.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp—who can’t quite break free from his German-ness when it comes to rule breaking—was not too pleased with the ruling, and clearly not just from a footballing perspective.
“I don’t want them to lose money, it is just that if there are rules then I think that we all stick to it and not only some,” Kloppo said in his pre-match press conference. “If you say, ‘come on, forget it, we don’t have to look at what someone is spending’ then there will be people with a lot of money who will be very influential.
“It is not about revenues any more; if someone is ready to spend a billion a year of his own money then that is how it is. If you agree on a specific rule but open the gates so you can do whatever you want then we all have to find solutions for that.
“But when we agree on FFP—and that’s what we did—and you are not happy with FFP afterwards that makes no sense as well. There are some rules and we should try to stick to it.”
The ruling gave City and Pep Guardiola a chance to spin the narrative, and act like they’re really the victims in all of this.
But of course football is a zero-sum gain. For every place that they climbed, every trophy they claimed, and every win over a Champions League rival or relegation-threatened team, they caused real and incalculable damage to other teams and to English football as a whole. They did so by cooking the books, and not even being that bothered whether or not they got caught. Like with some current politicians I could name, it can’t be corruption if it’s in full view of everyone, right?
Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have been massively impressive in their attempts to stand up to City on the football pitch, and to even occasionally come out on top. FSG took a club that was on the brink of administration and made them English, European, and World Champions, and they did so with one of the lowest net spends in the league over the last few years.
These are two very different ways to run a club.
Unfortunately, this is a fight Liverpool and FSG will eventually lose. While you can outsmart and outmaneuver a team with unlimited resources some of the time, it’s impossible to do so on a continuous basis.
It’s more important than ever to enjoy the success this year, because now that City have been exonerated, there will be little to stop them from spending every other side into the ground. At least, that is, until Newcastle get their own oil-rich billionaire to compete.