Constructive Citycism

Constructive Citycism

Manchester City have become a football club that appear easy to dismiss out of hand when they are playing well, quick to tear apart if their form dips, whilst questioning every non-footballing action through a harsh microscope. Within the club’s own fanbase the line between offering constructive criticism and being a supporter has blurred. Let’s take a look at the factors that don’t add up.

First off I’ll deal with the least favourable portion of the chat: City’s own fans. Lately there has been a generic response from certain supporters to question anyone that dares highlight an area where the team could be performing better. The usual Action Man pull-string line sounds something like, “Remember that we used to be shit.”


This is something that can’t be argued. But I doubt that these fans were walking away from Maine Road hiding their disgruntlement in those darker days. I dealt with the pain during the infamous season in the third tier of English football by having an extra pint at half time. Over said drink I’d criticise the players as I saw fit. It didn’t mean I wasn’t 100% behind the team, but to fail to see areas, and then comment, where the club should be better is playing the role of a blinkered fan.

I’d never boo a City player, I don’t think I even groaned like some with Lee Bradbury, nor would I offer an in-depth dissection of the team in the wrong public forum. But between fellow City fans there’s nothing wrong with pointing out where it’s going awry or which player needs to offer more. I’m not saying we should forget those bad days – they make me all the more grateful for the present – but to lean on them and ignore shortcomings shows a lack of ambition. We’ve moved on as a club and with that the mindset has to evolve.

This brings us to the next area of concern: The way we are perceived by others. Nowadays if a City fan shows any degree of confidence he is labelled as arrogant. That he has somehow forgotten that City was once a non-threat. And yet at the same time the opposing voice will point out that City should be winning because of the investment spent on the squad. It makes intelligent debate impossible when so many are unfairly gunning for the blues.

Much is obviously made about the money spent. My views on Financial Fair Play have been written here many times so I’ll spare retreading old ground concerning this oxymoron. Needless to say the detractors appear happy to see City fined and squad restricted in Europe this season, without ever explaining why the double standards within FFP are acceptable to them.

When City was playing catch-up, thus spending heavily, the process was demonised in the press. The very same press that wrote in terms of endearment and excitement when Manchester United splashed the cash this summer. Even now they report with growing arousal that they will continue the splurge. But they’re allowed because it’s their money, despite being in debt and City don’t owe anyone a penny. Other teams are applauded for business choices that bring about investment from foreign markets but City are viewed with suspicion for adopting new methods like sister clubs.


The double standards do not stop there. Much is written about how excessive spending is killing the youth system in England. Yet the ambitious academy City has recently launched wasn’t met with the same fanfare as one at United or Anfield would have been. Sheikh Mansour’s best intentions are conveniently under-reported, areas open to interpretation overplayed. If any doubt exists to United’s youth development we are reminded about the class of ’92, as if it’s the only measuring stick, still recent and relevant.

If this now appears like negative comments to detract from facts it’s barely worthy when placed alongside the professional examples. Many articles written nowadays are undoubtedly click-bait for the masses. The tabloids will be targeting groups they believe have larger numbers, like Liverpool and Manchester United fans. This is fine if the articles are club centric and not written to the detriment of others. Instead the click-bait stories are often written in a manner directly attacking competitors with tripe. The chosen teams are protected and given weekly prayers the press hope are prophecies; the unfavourable clubs are knocked down and written off without consulting the available evidence.

For the last two Premier League seasons the UK press has awarded the title early. Liverpool secured it with a month to spare last season, this year the Chelsea Invincibles took the title in November. Liverpool was lauded last year, as if the third highest spenders in Premier League history had never spent a penny, that Brendan Rodgers was a demigod and they “deserved” it. Pellegrini went about business like a class act, without ever receiving credit for hard work and the correct choices that brought about City’s most successful season.


This season we now sit on twenty games played, City and Chelsea have the exact same record, nothing separates them other than alphabetical order. But it’s still Chelsea that play the role of the chosen ones. Stats aside, because there’s no real split there, it’s hard to understand why the press and media are so quick to dismiss City. While they are busy romanticising over Mourinho’s team they aren’t asking the appropriate questions.

Had the two teams been tied at New Year but it was Chelsea that had suffered the loss of all available strikers throughout December, with their best one still out for a few more weeks, and John Terry had been out the side, then the anticipation that they would go on to secure the title once they were back to fitness would make sense. However, it’s City that have battled on with depleted numbers but for some reason this hasn’t been placed into any equations. Nor has the probability that at some point Chelsea are likely to lose major players. We know how City respond with men down – they close an eight point gap. How will Chelsea fare when they lose big names for long periods?

Chelsea are still spoken about as some unstoppable force, a City side carrying significant injuries is sneakily brushed aside. I’m not saying the press shouldn’t report City’s weaknesses, but they should be placed into context. Any areas that could be better only serve to show just how strong the best parts of City’s play are. Everyone is a harsh judge during Champions League games but Liverpool limped out of a weaker group without nearly as much inspection.

The press need to stop the pathetic click-bait, crowd mongering when it comes to Manchester City. Every team deserves to be given the same fair crack of the whip. And City fans need to stand together without forming fragmented groups just because of differing opinions. All we need is constructive criticism. Save the blinkered droning, combined with sickening courting by the press, for other teams.


Formula None

Formula None

Formula One is a sport that thrives in controversy. Thankfully, the element that could have undermined an entire Drivers’ Championship – Double Points – played no part in the end. That was a small rest bite during a time when F1 is under the microscope for different reasons.

With two teams in administration, and others close to the wall, its finances and wealth distribution require a review. Bernie and the large teams need to realise the product as a whole is only worth something if there is diversity across the grid. The current model almost ensures the big teams will remain near the top of the field but if this continues there’ll be no one else left to compete against. Three car teams would eventually become a three team championship.

Love or hate Bernie Ecclestone, the improvements made to the sport under his leadership can be clearly seen. It still is the pinnacle of motorsport and rather than keeping up with the times, it has defined them. New circuits, however bland some may be, come with state of the art facilities. The product generates more money than ever. Luxury companies pay a premium to be associated with each event. All this should bode well for the sport. But it somehow hasn’t helped abate the current situation.

It’s easy to see Bernie as a cantankerous old man. He’s holding all the cards, the ultimate power broker. He dismisses the pleas from the smaller teams out of hand. His remarks appear ill-informed and uneducated. With Caterham and Marussia heading to collapse he made numerous remarks, none of support, just disdain. Bernie doesn’t want to see begging jars in the paddock and claims the teams are mismanaged and haven’t ran their businesses correctly.

Berne F1

By doing this Bernie has quickly washed his hands of a problem he helped facilitate. These teams didn’t throw caution to the wind and spend big bucks to buy a title. They were scraping together the budget each season just to survive. When the now defunct HRT, Caterham and Marussia (badged as Virgin) came into the sport as the three fresh teams, they did so under the impression F1 would implement cost-cutting measures. Of course teams like Ferrari, with their seemingly bottomless pot of cash, felt uneasy levelling the playing field like this. A compromise of sorts was reached: the teams would slowly reduce running costs without a hard cap being installed. To this day it has never happened.

So the new teams haven’t been mismanaged as such, they’ve just been the victim of being told one thing then living another. To make matters worse the gulf in affluence is exacerbated by the distribution of wealth. Ferrari receives an extra cut of the cash, before any prize money is distributed, for just being in the sport. This is similar to the way Real Madrid and Barcelona negotiate their own TV deals in Spain. A fairer system is the English Premier League that splits its deal twenty ways. Obviously prize money will, and should, go to the most successful teams. But all teams need the same starting point. It’s ludicrous to give handouts to those that need them less.

It’s also clear that the teams can’t be trusted to introduce fair cost-cutting measures. The time has come for a fixed budget cap which excludes driver wages. When I have discussed Financial Fair Play in football, my tone has always been against the system. In that sport it handcuffs safe wealthy owners, maintaining a status quo for the elite teams across Europe. In any business a company should be able to make a loss in order to catch its competitors. However, the current system in F1 has created and facilitates a continuing status quo of its own. Smaller teams are losing money, but not to catch-up, just to stay in business.

USA F1 Empty Grid

The largest spenders, like Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, may resist a cap because it removes their advantage. But long term they may be racing amongst themselves, at which point, they’d also be at the back of the grid . . . and the middle and the front. Fans need variety. Imagine a future where every F1 race resembled the grid from the infamous 2005 United States Grand Prix. That’s where we’re heading. And Bernie doesn’t mind because the cash cow still has plenty of milk. Some circuits are paying around $70M just to host an event, and all the race revenues combined only equate to 30% of F1’s income.

Another 30% is from the television deals. This would be the first victim of a decline in the sport. If the ratings fell so would the sale price. It’s this fear that gives us the ever changing rules to make the sport more competitive. Tighter regulations to create a narrower band of creative manoeuvre. The best designer in the modern era, Adrian Newey, decided he’d had enough of these restrictions so took on a different role within the Red Bull group. It’s a shame that the pinnacle of motorsport is hindered by its own self-inflicted parameters. Rules to increase excitement that will never work as long as a gulf in spending exists.

All the teams need to realise they need one another. An independent body needs to be set up to implement the cost-cutting measures and to clarify what goes on in the murky waters of F1 management. At the moment Bernie and the big teams feels more corrupt than a FIFA World Cup bidding process.

It’s ironic F1 spends so much time and energy tweaking itself to make racing closer without making the money in the sport fairer. A much better model would be one that has a hard budget cap, and at the same time has wider design windows. Cars would be cheaper to run, so the small teams wouldn’t be facing extinction, but a relaxation of the rules would add greater variety across the design process. The more creative or forward thinking would have the ability to flourish. They could even return to multiple tyre manufacturers with a set price for the season support. The entire onus would then be on those tyre providers to produce the best rubber at an affordable price. The difference in compounds would create exciting races as different teams on different rubber face unique race strategies. There’d be less tyre management and more non-stop pushing.

Whether you agree with the idea of a fixed budget or not, Bernie’s ignorance is something that is fact not opinion. He recently remarked he doesn’t care for social media or the younger generation of F1 fans. That his product is aimed at wealthy men in old age. That no young man on Twitter is going to buy a Rolex, a product his sport is paid to advertise. This is sheer arrogance and short-sightedness. Sponsorship accounts for 15% of F1 income, another 15% from merchandise and corporate hospitality, but that 30% from TV deals should have greater importance to Bernie.

To ignore the poorer young fans is to care little for the viewing figures that account for a third of his income. The same people whom the regulations are forever tweaked to create closer racing. The people that could be watching the sport for decades to come. But Bernie isn’t a man of the people. He isn’t even a man that cares for teams within his own sport. Unless you’re a big red Italian car company, or a 70 year old man wearing a Rolex sat in a corporate box, he won’t give you a second thought.

Backs to UEFA

Backs to UEFA

After another round of Champions League fixtures we once again find criticism directed toward UEFA. My own contempt for the corrupt and hypocritical organisation is well noted. Now some Manchester City fans are canvassing for supporters to turn their backs during the Champions League anthem at the next three European games. Whilst I support any movement against UEFA and their ideology, City fans have to be clear on the reasons why they are turning their backs, and why they are choosing to do it now.

Every time I have written about Financial Fair Play the strong undercurrent has been a dislike toward UEFA. That particular system is anything but fair, they weren’t acting as caring overseers, the system wouldn’t even have prevented a Leeds or Portsmouth situation. It reeked of corruption, ensuring the status quo in football for the European “Big Boys.” They traversed the boundaries of sport and business, failing to ensure clarity or complete legality with either.

When they issued fines, this captured cash wasn’t distributed into grass root schemes, struggling lower league clubs, or even charities. It was fed back to the compliant clubs playing at the top European level. They should have already been filtering money from their vast profits, across all of Europe, to the smaller clubs that facilitate emerging players within the lower leagues. Instead of being a benevolent group they have edged ever closer to a Fascist regime bordering on evil Totalitarianism. They dangle high prize money for their premier competition whilst threatening handcuffs for those that can compete with healthy cash.

It’s only now, after the event and sanctions imposed on Manchester City and PSG, that UEFA have even considered clubs, such as Manchester United, facing questions over loans that form part of their finances. These help highlight that UEFA doesn’t care about fairness. In a democracy, argument and counter-argument are heard equally, then an agreed system is formed. UEFA rule with an iron-fist. Bully and ignore as they please. If they cared about the health of the sport, of the people within the game, they wouldn’t have allowed Poland and Ukraine to spend billions to host the European championships, then face ruin. There should be a moral obligation to protect clubs or national associations from such grotesque overspend. But as long as UEFA are dangling the carrot they’re hardly likely to tire of the tease.

It’s ruling with such an iron-fist which makes remarks made after the “behind closed doors” CSKA Moscow v Manchester City Champions League tie, all the more ridiculous. CSKA were the ones facing a punishment for racist behaviour. Yet, on the night, they somehow had around 600 fans in the stadium. As City captain Vincent Kompany asked: “You say no fans, all of a sudden you turn up and the team that has no fans is Man City. So who’s getting punished? Who’s being done for racism, Man City or Moscow?”


It’s almost a rhetorical question. Clearly the punishment also affected Manchester City, perhaps to a greater degree. I am not suggesting, nor is anyone associated with the club even as they launch a complaint, that the Moscow fans swayed the match. But the principle of the matter is what makes it note worthy. It’s almost a sick joke when UEFA claim there was no breach. That club delegations, media, security staff, UEFA and guests of sponsorship partners are allowed into behind closed door matches. It’s that last one on the list that tells the story: Sponsorship Partners. Greedy UEFA. Always money over morals.

They claim they can’t dictate who those guests are. They make the rules and shirk the responsibility all too often. If UEFA stated only people in pink shirts could enter, guess what, we’d all be wearing pink shirts or face being ejected from our seats. They obviously need clubs, media and security there. But they could have prevented guests of sponsors. They may have lost some cash, but is money from one game’s set of guests more important than a solid stance against racism?

UEFA No racism

To UEFA it probably is. This is an organisation that threatened action against players if they walked from the field of play during racist chants, then applauded that action when the world supported AC Milan for doing just that. They are so out of touch with public opinion and common decency that their judgement can no longer be trusted. City shouldn’t have been playing that came in Moscow in front of 600 CSKA fans. It should have been in a neutral country’s stadium filled to the rafters with Blues.  But they don’t really care about racism, half the time they come across as if the subject is an awkward annoyance to them; and they don’t care about Manchester City, we’re like the one-legged ginger step-child that needs glasses.

So as a City fan (I also happen to have been a step-child, ginger, and a wearer of spectacles) we face the decision to turn our backs when UEFA play their anthem. I agree with the sentiment. The debacle in Russia is the straw that has broken the camel’s back for many a Blue. However, I’m worried it puts City fans on dangerous ground. Surely the time for a stance against UEFA was at the first Champions League game. The droplets of faeces we’ve had on us this week are just spray from a larger, on-going, shower.

To make a stand now we risk looking bitter. That our disappointing result is more to do with the turning of backs than UEFA’s actions. Too much focus is placed on the Champions League. For me the measure of a team’s greatness is domestic success. When both Liverpool and Chelsea last claimed UEFA’s top prize they failed to secure a top four finish at home. However, the world sees it different. City’s owners see it different. Had City already secured a Champions League trophy, a stand against UEFA would hold much more weight. Instead there’s a risk our positive defiance will be pushed away with nonchalance.


Over the coming weeks we need to articulate all our grievances regarding UEFA to prevent our protest appearing two-faced. At the moment UEFA stand unopposed, everyone is bending to their rules, the rules bending further to support the evil regime. If people do take notice we need to have a clear message: That UEFA needs to change or be replaced entirely.