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Are Man City Bluffing?

March 03, 2020

Are Man City Bluffing?

Man City will no longer fly the flag for England in Europe

It’s quite possibly the biggest news of the decade and we’re only two months into the 2020s. Man City’s ban from European competition for two seasons has the potential to ruin the club.

The expected player exodus, alongside the fact that they will lose a huge portion of their income, has the fans reeling. Yet the club’s hierarchy have taken a much more positive approach to the news, stating that they have every confidence that the ban will be overturned through an appeal. Are the club simply playing a bad poker hand really well? Are they bluffing their way through the entire process?

The club’s stance

From the very start of the investigation, Man City have felt that they would be found guilty no matter what happened. They feel that the investigation should have been carried out by an impartial and independent body. They also feel that the judgment and punishment should also have been handed out by any formal body other than UEFA themselves.

At first glance, the club’s approach seems to be the common sense one. They feel harshly treated and would prefer a fair hearing, something they felt that they were denied throughout the entire process. However, if we dig a little deeper, it’s not quite so clear cut.

UEFA’s stance

The club’s stadium sponsorship deal is at the heart of the case

UEFA are firm in their belief that Man City have broken the rules in relation to Financial Fair Play. They feel that the club overinflated their sponsorship deals so that they could balance the books and not be seen to be overspending.

The European football governing body claims that the club were fully aware of the rules and its obligations from the start. They also knew that should any mismanagement of finances occur, they would be investigated by UEFA and punished accordingly if found guilty.

UEFA feel that they are quite justified in dishing out such seemingly harsh punishment. After all, they caught City with more than a few aces up their sleeve and a bag of poker chips under the table. Yet the club still insist that they want to play another hand.

What if they are bluffing?

Now, if we take all of that into account and assume that Man City are bluffing, it could prove to be one of the worst decisions the board has ever made. One of the fundamentals of every poker strategy guide is that you need to learn to become a good loser. Quit while you're ahead is what they say, right?

If this decision to fight UEFA turns out to be a poker bluff of monstrous proportions, it could result in the Premier League getting involved and City could lose some of their titles or even face expulsion. Talk about playing a bad hand of poker.

Should the Premier League get involved then it might not just be the titles they won that are in danger. The club could also face a hefty financial penalty, along with a points deduction.

In fact, reports suggest that there is already an investigation underway, which perhaps is why the club feel the need to remain so firm in their claims of innocence. If they admit to their guilt in front of UEFA, the Premier League investigation will have no reason to run its course. Punishment will be given and Man City could find themselves playing in the third tier of English football.

If this happens then can we really expect to see the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne kitting out for a match away to Lincoln City? Even if they aren’t relegated or hit with a massive points deduction, will those players want to lose two years of playing European competition? We think not. Play well in this summer’s Euro 2020 and those players could very well find themselves playing on the continent for the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Juventus.

What if they’re not bluffing?

The truth is that no one truly believes that the club is free of guilt. Even the club’s statement, which focuses purely on the process of the investigation and judgment, fails to indicate that they have committed no crimes. However, there is the possibility that the club is a supreme poker player with a winning hand all along.

So if the court for arbitration of sport (CAS) finds that the club have nothing to answer for; what will happen next? The obvious answer is, of course, that Man City will be re-entered into European competitions. However, the ramifications of this would go far deeper than Pep having another crack at the Champions League.

UEFA would lose all appearance of authority over the clubs that have significant financial backing. The likes of Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain would have a precedent to follow, should UEFA decide to investigate and punish them for any suspected financial foul play.

Without a doubt, this would have a detrimental effect on the game as a whole. As it stands, smaller clubs feel that the larger clubs have an unfair advantage in terms of sponsorship and TV money. If they can throw money around without fear of punishment, any sense of right within the game would quite literally go out the window.

With everyone assuming that Man City have without doubt circumnavigated the financial fair play rules, an overruling of their punishment could be seen as a license for other clubs to go out and follow the club’s lead. It would be devastating for the game and for UEFA in particular.

If Man City have indeed broken the rules and are proven to be bluffing with the worst poker hand of all time, then they simply must be held accountable. Many would even suggest that if it’s revealed that they continued to waste UEFA’s time with the appeals process, then perhaps they should receive an even harsher punishment.

It remains to be seen how far this will go, but it will be quite interesting to say the least. The truth is that the outcome of this case could change the footballing landscape forever. Let’s just hope it’s for the better.