Could the Champions Be Kicked? Manchester City’s Possible Exile From the Premier League

Charged with over a hundred violations occurring over the past twelve years, Man City might finally lose its status as the ultimate team in the Premier League.


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Manchester City, winners of four of the last five seasons, have grown exponentially in the last decade, from a team that almost never won, to a team that has become synonymous with utter victory. Their motto “Superbia in proelio” translates to “pride in battle,” but recently the blue crew’s pride has been stained by accusations of financial cheating.

Soccer is the most viewed sport in the world, with over half of the global population tuning in to every FIFA World Cup. Viewership passed 1.5 billion people for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final, breaking its previous records and making it the most watched sports match in all of history. Though the biggest focus is often on international events and national teams, domestic leagues are very important to the prosperity of the sport and the multinational soccer network overall. Without the buildup to the world cup, FIFA wouldn’t make half as much money as they do, and many great players would go unrecognized. 

The Premier League is England’s most prestigious soccer league. Winners are hailed as heroes in the UK, and acquire international recognition. The top four teams go on to contend in other countries’ top leagues, such as Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s LaLiga, or Germany’s Bundesliga, and eventually compete in the UEFA competitions (Union of European Football Associations). The top English players could then be chosen to play for their national team in the FIFA World Cup. 

Manchester City (known to fans as Man City) are considered the reigning champions of the Premier League. With championship victories in 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022, they have long seemed incapable of failure due to their inclusion of players such as Kevin De Bruyne (KDB), Erling Braut Haaland, and other megastars, which has paid off tremendously. In addition to the team’s victories, Haaland is in the running for the Golden Boot Award for the most goals scored in a season (35), having beaten previous record holders Andy Cole and Alan Shearer, with five games still to go. 

The Etihad Stadium, the home ground of Man City, is the sixth-biggest stadium in England, and arguably the most popular. It held its record of 53,482 total attendance during the Man City versus Arsenal match on April 26th, 2023. This game saw City finally beat Arsenal to take the top spot on the points table for the 2023 season, courtesy of KDB and Haaland’s seemingly unstoppable duet, with another goal by John Stones. Photo Credit: Jonny Gios / Unsplash

However, Man City was charged with allegations of financial secrecy and breaking the rules of Financial Fair Play (concerning the maximum money that can be offered to a player). The rules of the Premier League state that every team must release all their financial information, including offers, contracts, and more to the organization’s fiscal overseer, with the intention of stopping teams from spending more money than they will eventually earn back. 

Sponsored by Etihad Airways, the team is mostly owned by City Football Group, whose CEO is Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, billionaire and brother to the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Currently the vice president and deputy prime minister of the country (among other ministry posts), he holds shares in many companies, including oil giants. Because of the effectively limitless amount of money that can be poured into the team, the best players can be selected. In doing so, Manchester City has found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Further complicating this controversy is the fact that these allegations stretch back to 2009, when Al Nahyan first bought the team. For over a decade, Manchester City has been highly secretive about its finances in order to maintain their status in the Premier League. Perhaps England and the FA (English Football Association) have looked past these issues in the hope that their teams and players go on to dominate in the other European leagues. 

While I think Man City should play on with its current roster, as their games are part of those that bring the most revenue and energy from the fans, Al Nahyan and the City Football Group should certainly be fined for their attempted avoidances and violations of the law. 

Many soccer fans feel similarly. “Al Nahyan has made it acceptable to simply buy a star prospect from a smaller team for massive transfer fees, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s no matter — he can simply buy more,” said Sebastian Rosero-Mayer ’23. “Oil money has caused a trend with teams such as PSG (Paris Saint-Germain), Real (Real Madrid), and Chelsea being bought out by the Saudis or Qataris and simply ruining the integrity of the sport,” demonstrating fans’ loss of interest in teams that do not showcase the full potential of a team, but rather keep playing the same top players; it isn’t fun or fair to play a team designed to win against the rules. Rosero-Mayer adds, “The one league that combats this is the Bundesliga with their 51 percent fan ownership rule, meaning a financial takeover can’t really occur. It makes the sustained success of a team like Bayern (Bayern Munich) much more impressive than that of Man City.” 

Since Prem teams must sign at least eight young English players out of a full squad of twenty five, prospective talents are kept at a minimum and pushed to the side in favor of more costly players, making the tournament uninteresting to those who want to see talented youth shine. Furthermore, the team is much more likely to engage in corruption when more money is at stake, leading to a cycle of destruction.  

Many fans agree with the proposed fine, stating, “Man City shouldn’t be banned due to how popular it is but should be fined for their actions so it doesn’t happen again,” and “Don’t let oil money take over football.” Others add that, “…there should be a limit of how much players get paid. However, in this case it was someone who had the money to buy players that took Man City from the bottom to one of the best teams in the premier league.” 

Although it may seem like an intrusion of privacy to force buyers to admit to financial details, it is necessary for the fairness of the sport. Scandals like these threaten to ruin any sport, and for a country that essentially lives on soccer, their star team being dropped from the Premier League could imbalance their entire sports industry. Manchester City’s selfishness has been rumored to have started spreading to other teams as well. Abhinav Akella ’26 said, “I’m a Spurs (Tottenham Hotspurs) fan and I dislike Arsenal, but for the sake of preventing oil monopoly in football, I think Arsenal should win the league this year.” To protest this issue, many supporters have even switched their allegiance, which is truly a novel notion for a nation known for its die-hard fans. 

Man City supporters cheer on their players during a match. English fans are known to be some of the fiercest fans, and this may be part of why team owners feel the need to overstep some rules in order to create an appealing team. However, they have failed to realize that fans would rather have a fair match than a predictable match. Photo Credit:  Jonny Gios / Unsplash

Worst of all, it could even affect other aspects of England, such as its internationally-recognized opportunities for prospective foreign players, and might even bring down its title as holding the best stadiums and players in the world. 

England is in danger of falling under scrutiny for their other flaws, too namely, their tendency to cheat. They have been accused of buying referees for the world cup, or doing favors to the Arabian oil tycoons to buy such referees for them. 

If England were to tighten their laws regarding buyers and prospects, the country might be able to squeeze past this issue. For now, they must prosecute those who believe that they are above the law. The effect of tightening the regulations would be two-fold; other teams would be discouraged from following in their footsteps, and the soccer industry would move forward with new players, rejuvenating fans’ love for the sport. 

Manchester City has found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place.