The UK government has admitted its embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London have discussed the charges levelled at Manchester City by the Premier League, but are refusing to disclose the correspondence because it could risk the UK’s relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In February, the Premier League directed 115 charges at City, which relate to a series of alleged breaches of financial rules between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 seasons.
City are accused by the Premier League of not providing accurate financial information, “in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs”.
The club deny the allegations and in a previous statement pointed to “a body of irrefutable evidence” that will clear them of any wrongdoing.
Man City charges explained: The accusations, possible punishments and what happens next
On April 6, The Athletic, using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), requested all correspondence between the FCDO in London and the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi relating the Premier League charges facing Manchester City between December 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023.
An FOI request gives people the right to ask any public authority for the information they hold on record. Once the submission has been acknowledged, the public sector organisation has 20 working days to respond it.
On May 10, the FCDO confirmed it “does hold information falling within the terms” of our request, but delayed handing over the correspondence while considering whether it is in the public interest from an international relations perspective.
And on September 6, the FCDO, citing Section 27(1)(a) of the FOIA, said: “We acknowledge that releasing information on this issue would increase public knowledge about our relations with the UAE.
“The disclosure of information detailing our relationship with the UAE government could potentially damage the bilateral relationship between the UK and the UAE.”
The Athletic has appealed this decision.
We asked Manchester City whether they had any comment in relation to the fact such correspondence exists and that if they are not state-owned or funded, then why are the UK government concerned about jeopardising relations between the UK and UAE? Manchester City did not comment.
The Premier League was asked whether it has received any correspondence at all from UK government employees in relation to the charges levelled at City. The Premier League did not respond.
Manchester City have reiterated many times that they are not state-owned or funded. The club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour, is the vice president and deputy prime minister of the UAE. His half brother, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is the president of the UAE.
Sheikh Mansour is the majority shareholder in Manchester City via Newton Investment and Development, a company he wholly owns, which is registered in Abu Dhabi and possesses a majority shareholding in City Football Group (CFG).
As such, it would be legally inaccurate to describe City as state-owned, despite Sheikh Mansour’s prominent political positions in the UAE and Abu Dhabi, its capital.
Although the correspondence has been sealed by the FCDO, there is no indication as to what has been said between them and the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi other than the fact City’s Premier League charges have been mentioned.
The UK and UAE has a positive bilateral relationship and in September 2021, the UAE pledged to invest £10billion (now $12.2bn) in UK clean energy, technology and infrastructure. This was in addition to previous investments totalling more than £1billion.
Since City was sold to Sheikh Mansour in September 2008, the club have won seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups, six EFL cups and one Champions League, as well as establishing CFG.
CFG operates a multi-club model, whereby the parent company owns or has stakes in multiple clubs around the world. CFG has full ownership of New York City in the USA and Melbourne City in Australia, as well as Manchester City.
The group also has investment in clubs in China, India, Japan, Uruguay, Bolivia, Belgium, Brazil and Italy.
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