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Volume 6 No. 232
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Man City Owner City Football Group Continues To Expand Global Empire

Man City owner City Football Group said that its ambition is to build the "first truly global football organisation" and its owners "are at the vanguard of a growing trend for wealthy individuals to control multiple clubs," according to Murad Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The intention is for "each of the teams in the network to be profitable in their own right, but co-operate to identify and train the world’s best players," while securing marketing deals to "fund the wages of footballing superstars." At its heart is Man City, bought in '08 by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the billionaire businessman, deputy PM of the UAE and a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family. He "promised to transform the team" into a "global megaclub capable of winning Europe’s biggest prizes." At the time, "such ambition was ridiculed" by then-ManU Manager Alex Ferguson, who described it as the excitable talk of "noisy neighbours." In reality, Sheikh Mansour’s estimated personal wealth of $20B, from holdings in Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas entities, gives the club "greater financial resources than all its rivals." In recent years, the Emirati prince "has funded a different spending spree." In '13, Man City joined with the MLB N.Y. Yankees to pay $100M for the franchise rights to create a football team in N.Y. CFG "then struck smaller multimillion-dollar deals" to buy Australia’s Melbourne Heart, since renamed Melbourne City, and Uruguay’s Atlético Torque. It also acquired minority stakes in Yokohama Marinos in Japan and Spain’s Girona. A senior Premier League club exec described CFG as a "hall of mirrors" designed to funnel revenues back to the central entity in Manchester and "justify its enormous spending on players." A £400M ($535.4M), 10-year deal with Etihad, Abu Dhabi’s state airline led to accusations of "financial doping" by Juventus President Andrea Agnelli. Others suggest CFG "represents a geopolitical play, designed to exert Emirati soft power by creating winning teams" in the world’s favorite sport. Salford University professor Simon Chadwick said, "Abu Dhabi is not doing this because it likes Levenshulme [a district of Manchester]. They are doing this to seek sustainable revenue streams from the investments that will provide currency inflows in 10, 20, 50 years' time when the oil and gas is gone" (FT, 12/8).