Manchester City would have made a significant financial loss last season if cash from firms based in the United Arab Emirates and/or funded by entities linked to owner Sheik Mansour had been removed from their headline income.
City posted a £10.4m profit for 2017-18 while reporting £500.5m revenues as they boasted about a fourth consecutive term in the black.
But that income included £223m from ‘commercial’ sources, with around £130m derived from the UAE, where Mansour is deputy Prime Minister as well as one of the richest royals.
There is no law against UAE firms sponsoring City, nor do Uefa’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules prohibit that, per se. But City would be loss-making without big sums from Etihad (the airline), Etisalat (a telecoms firm) and Visit Abu Dhabi (the tourism authority) among others.
City stand accused of unethical accounting practices in trying to circumvent FFP after the German magazine Der Spiegel cited Football Leaks material describing how Mansour’s cash has been injected under the cover of sponsorships.
In 2015, for example, Etihad’s deal was worth £67.5m a year to City but documents suggest Etihad were paying just £8m and Mansour £59.5m himself.
Another of City’s current sponsors, a UAE investment firm called Aabar, was paying £15m to City but only £3m from their own coffers. City derive sponsorship income from businesses as diverse as Healthpoint, a chain of clinics, and First Gulf, a bank, that are either UAE-based or funded by Mubadala, the UAE sovereign wealth fund which is run by City’s chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and has Mansour as a figurehead.
In March last year City became the first Premier League club to announce — with fanfare — a shirt sleeve deal, with Korean tyre firm Nexen. In July, in a less heralded deal, Nexen agreed to ‘explore strategic partnership opportunities’ with Mubadala, and were paid what sources say was a ‘significant equity injection’ by Mubadala for doing so. From August, City wore Nexen on their sleeves as part of a deal that adds around £10m a year to City’s books.
It is not known how many of City’s 36 most significant sponsors and partners are linked financially to the UAE or City’s immediate parent company City Football Group (CFG). City have declined to answer any questions on these issues.
They have also declined to confirm how much the club’s wage bill has been reduced by paying some staff via CFG instead of the club itself, and declined to confirm how manager Pep Guardiola’s salary is routed — solely via the club, or, like former manager Roberto Mancini, via City and a second consulting contract in Abu Dhabi.
City’s 2017-18 financial accounts appear to acknowledge UAE cash remains vital to keeping them out of the red, even now, when they say: ‘Manchester City Football Club Limited is reliant on its ultimate parent undertaking, Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Ltd (‘ADUG’), for its continued financial support.’