The head of the Uefa panel which will establish whether clubs are in breach of financial fair play (FFP) rules has said that Manchester City's sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways does raise questions which need to be addressed.
City are adamant that a 10-year deal, the value of which may rise to £400m, is transparent and is not simply a means of the Abu Dhabi royal family, which founded Etihad, artificially adjusting the club's balance sheet to enable it to meet the FFP rules. City's owner, Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is the half-brother of Etihad's chairman.
The Liverpool proprietor, John W Henry, and Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, have both questioned the size of the deal. There is also understood to be scepticism in some rival Premier League boardrooms about the fact that Etihad, which has yet to make a profit in its seven-year history, are paying such a colossal sum.
The chairman of Uefa's nine-man Financial Control Panel, Jean-Luc Dehaene, told the BBC yesterday: "I had some questions, yes. You know where the problems are and you know you will have to confirm them. But on the other hand they are all members of the ECA [European Club Association] and if they don't follow the rules they won't have the support of other clubs. But it would be dangerous for our authority if we take judgements without facts."
Under the terms of Uefa's 91-page Licensing and Fair Play regulations, a club will fail the "related party" test if money comes in from a "close member" of the club owner's family who "has significant influence over the [club]". City, who did not comment on Mr Dehaene's observations, are confident that they can demonstrate that Etihad's chairman, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and vice-chairman Sheikh Kaled, both half-brothers, do not exert any influence over City.
One of the two British members of the panel, Brian Quinn, the former Celtic chairman, has declined The Independent's request to discuss the panel's role, but he told the Glasgow Herald in 2009: "I think a lot of the problems in football come directly or indirectly from the financial problems experienced by clubs and one of the things this initiative is intended to do is remove systemic risk from the football environment. This means something within the system rather than something which occurs from financial mismanagement."Reuse content