A dispiriting element surrounding the recent Football Leaks revelations has been the reaction of some supporters of the clubs involved. And, of course, their rival fans, for many of whom the leaks are nothing more than an opportunity to engage in a gigantic points-scoring exercise.
Rather than looking inwards and acknowledging the rotten nature of the people in charge of their team, it seems as if a significant proportion of Manchester City supporters have elected to bury their heads in the sand and say things like, “well, everyone’s doing it aren’t they? What about Barcelona?” Or, “well, it doesn’t take anything away from what the team has achieved.”
Except, of course, it absolutely does. Without the Emirati backroom machinations of which we’re now aware, there’s no Pep Guardiola, no Kevin De Bruyne and, perhaps most importantly, no All Or Nothing.
This City is not the City that most of the club’s fans grew up watching. It’s a zombified regime-legitimiser, a bloated, rotting figure staggering around screaming, “braaaaiiinssss, oh and also the UAE is a totally cool place, why not visit and perhaps invest?”
It’s not the fault of the average City fan that this is the case. It’s just a symptom of how football works now. The game is, if not big-business then at least medium-business, and ripe for exploitation by people like Sheikh Mansour, Khaldoon Al Mubarak and, over in Paris, Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Those guys care not a jot for City or PSG supporters, so there’s no reason for City or PSG supporters to care about them. And yet, for some reason, hundreds of ‘Cityzens’ are flooding Twitter and other social media platforms with impassioned defences of indolent, dead-eyed princelings who have more in common with a Bugatti Veyron than they do with the average City supporter.
(Perhaps PSG fans are also flooding Twitter defending the club’s alleged racial-profiling recruitment policy; sadly, we don’t know enough about French Football Twitter to prove that).
What can you say to a person like that? Nothing, really.
For them, the die is cast. The success of their football club is vastly more important than things like the basic observance of sporting law, operational integrity and human rights.
It’s far from every City fan who thinks like this, but there appear to be enough to ensure that Mansour & Co. won’t face any lasting consequences for what they’ve done. So long as the money-men keep delivering decent football and Premier League titles, well, everything’s hunky dory at the Etihad.
What the Emirati owners – and similarly the Qataris at PSG – fear more than anything is bad publicity for City, and by extension themselves and their regimes. With loyal City fans falling over themselves trying to defend them, it doesn’t look like they’ll face any kind of fan movement like that seen occasionally down the road at Old Trafford. Love City, Hate the Mansours, anyone?
All of which just means business as usual for City Football Group. Unless a significant bloc of City supporters faces up to reality and starts to consider voting with their feet, or even engaging in open protest against the owners, there’s no need for Mansour and Al Mubarak to do anything differently.
Soon, Football Leaks will be brushed quietly back under the carpet, leaving CFG and its financiers to keep on keeping on. Certainly, considering the apparently willing involvement of senior UEFA and FIFA figures in this whole thing, it’s unlikely the governing bodies will lift a finger to stop them.
Under normal circumstances it’s not up to supporters to police their club. They’re not the ones responsible for breaking all these regulations, but maybe, just maybe, they have the power to land a blow on the people who are. Fans shouldn’t have to be a club’s moral guardians, but this is where we are now.
So, the ball’s in City fans’ court. What they do with it remains to be seen.