How are big-spending Manchester City set to pass Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules?

They may have breezed to the top of the Premier League, but the club's attempt to pass Uefa's Financial Fair Play test looks far less simple

They reached the top of the Premier League table effortlessly, barely breaking sweat at Tottenham on Wednesday and without the second-half presence of Sergio Aguero, who is targeting a recovery from his hamstring injury in time for the Champions League home tie with Barcelona on 18 February. But Manchester City's attempt to clear their biggest hurdle – Uefa's Financial Fair Play test – looks far less simple.

It certainly seems likely that the sums will add up. That much was clear when City revealed annual turnover up by almost £40m at £271m for 2012-13 on Wednesday, reducing losses to around the £50m mark, which – with Uefa allowing pre-2010 wages to be subtracted – was always considered enough to see them through. But it is equally clear that they will come under intense scrutiny from the European governing body for the two financial arrangements which helped them to that figure – one of which is unprecedented, the other eye-catching. Uefa will be interested. Its Club Financial Control Body is understood to have made the identification of "artificial" revenue streams a fundamental aim.

Experts agree that the Premier League leaders' £24.5m sale of player image rights to an external company – one of those two significant arrangements – has never been attempted by a football club before. Manchester United and Chelsea, two clubs big enough to consider such a strategy, both view image rights as an important part of their core business. City will not reveal the name of the company that has bought their image rights – and neither did they do so in their accounts – but the club has dismissed the notion, put to it by The Independent, that the buyers might be a subsidiary of the club.

It will be for City to demonstrate to Uefa that the image rights – which elite clubs generally negotiate a large slice of for themselves, with a percentage retained by the player and separated from his salary for tax reasons – are worth the £24.5m sum. There is certainly an irony about the club selling off those rights to another company, since their pitch to Kaka, when the then chief executive Garry Cook ambitiously but ultimately disastrously tried to sign him from Milan in January 2009, was that Cook's image rights expertise working with basketball's Michael Jordan at Nike would result in the Brazilian becoming a very wealthy man at the Etihad.

Even more closely scrutinised by Uefa will be the £22.45m City has revealed they effectively paid themselves by selling their intellectual property to "related parties". Who these are was not disclosed in the 2012-13 annual report either, but New York City FC – City's new Major League Soccer franchise – as well as Melbourne Heart franchise in Australia and Manchester City Ladies FC have been cited.

Since the Melbourne franchise was only announced last month, it means that City will have to demonstrate to Uefa that the New York and women's teams have received the multimillion-pound benefits of being affiliate City clubs. City have not detailed what the £22.45m figure has been paid to them for, though it is understood to be player scouting and commercial services. Since the establishment of City's scouting system cost a mere £4m, the value of commercial know-how and leads will need to be significant.

The £46.95m which these two arrangements help to generate are by no means the only aspect of City's revenue growth. The club has been commercially imaginative, securing several new partners last year. City's impressive London offices – at the 10 Brock Street building on Regent's Place – are testament to their ambition.

But the 2012-13 report does reveal other payments between parts of the club –City effectively paying themselves for their own services. There is a sale of "intangible assets" totalling £11.5m involving a subsidiary of the club, City Football Marketing, and another such sale totalling £10.87m involving a third subsidiary, City Football Services. Both of those subsidiaries have had their names changed and registered offices moved from the Etihad to London in the past 12 months. City Football Marketing's registered office changed only this month.

The significance of these subsidiary businesses is revealed by the fact that City's six main board members – Khaldoon al-Mubarak, Mohamed al-Mazrouei, Simon Pearce, Martin Edelman, John Macbeath and Alberto Galassi – sit on the boards of both.

It seems inconceivable that City will not have thought through and analysed the kind of scrutiny that the Club Financial Control Body will submit their accounts to. The expertise City have amassed includes Financial Fair Play specialists – Alex Byars and Martyn Hawkins joined from the Deloitte sports business, which helped Uefa set up the FFP legislation. But a pass or a fail by Uefa will provoke the same controversy which has accompanied City throughout their rapid journey to the top.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape