FIFA, Manchester City Respond to Financial Fair Play Allegations

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2018

FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MOHD RASFAN/Getty Images

FIFA and Manchester City have denied allegations that FIFA president Gianni Infantino helped the club avoid financial fair play sanctions.

On Friday, German magazine Der Spiegel published the allegations based on documents from a Football Leaks investigation, reporting that he "cut secret deals" with City and Paris Saint-Germain in 2014 while he was general secretary of UEFA to avoid heavy penalties for breaching FFP regulations.

Per the Mirror's Alex Richards, the Sky Blues said in a statement: "We will not be providing any comment on out of context materials purported to have been hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Manchester City personnel and associated people. The attempt to damage the club's reputation is organised and clear."

Meanwhile, FIFA said:

"We have become aware of various articles published today about FIFA.

"Four weeks ago, a group of journalists sent several hundred questions to FIFA, based on private and internal emails and other information which had been accessed (illegally) by third parties.

"Despite the fact that we answered the questions posed to us in a straightforward and honest manner, certain media decided to ignore most of our answers and to distort both the facts and the truth in a deliberate attempt to discredit FIFA and to mislead their readers. This is evident.

"It seems obvious from the 'reporting' carried out in some media outlets that there is only one particular aim: an attempt to undermine the new leadership of FIFA and, in particular, the President, Gianni Infantino, and the Secretary General, Fatma Samoura."

The statement pointed to the changes made by football's governing body after 2015's corruption scandal to clean itself up, and it was added that "some of those who have been removed, replaced, or who are unhappy, continue to spread false rumours and innuendo about the new leadership."

"For the avoidance of doubt, it also deserves to be pointed out that NONE of the 'reports' contains anything which would even remotely amount to a violation of any law, statute or regulation," the statement added.

Sporting Intelligence's Nick Harris relayed details of the allegations and questioned City's response to them:

Nick Harris @sportingintel

The one thing Man City's statement in relation to the Der Spiegel story *doesn't* say, is: 'This is not true.'

According to further Football Leaks documents published by Der Spiegel, City CEO Ferran Soriano told club president Khaldoon Al Mubarak: "I had a good telephone call with Gianni Infantino where we agreed how to brief the lawyers ('to negotiate a settlement that is more than a warning and can be seen as effective/dissuasive but does not affect dramatically MCFC business')."

Rob Harris of the Associated Press supplied further context:

Rob Harris @RobHarris

While UEFA general secretary, Infantino seen in #FootballLeaks as too close to Man City as investigation continued. Given legal threats by well-funded City, Infantino might have faced need to protect UEFA but chatty emails with City leadership an issue https://t.co/Md0D8zT1In

It's said Infantino similarly "went out of his way" to help PSG avoid sanctions after their Qatari owners allegedly pumped €1.8 billion into the Ligue 1 club, who have also denied breaching FFP rules.

Friday's are the latest in a long line of reports to come out since Football Leaks gave 18.6 million documents in 2016 to European Investigative Collaborations, a network of 12 media outlets of which Der Spiegel is one, as documented by Bleacher Report's Richard Fitzpatrick.