Is Manchester City’s structural model, with their ‘satellite’ clubs scattered around the world, damaging football or just good modern business sense? by AtTheMatch
“In baseball, a “farm team” is a minor league team affiliated with a Major League Baseball (MLB) organisation. Such minor league teams are under the control of the MLB organisation through strict franchise rights. By that standard, New York City is a farm team”. USA Today sportswriter Geoff Burke argues that the MLS club New York City should be considered as no more as a feeder club for Manchester City.
There was a time when you only needed to say one word for the other person to know which team you were referring to. Just Manchester. Up until the mid-2000s, the mention of the Northern city in footballing parlance meant only club to many people overseas, and that club played in red. Now, though, if you are to visit New York City or Melbourne - still regarded by the Premier League as virgin football heartlands with massive means for growth before saturation point can even be contemplated – then you are likely to see many more men, women and children both of Mancunian and local accent wearing blue shirts of a familiarly sky-like hue.
When Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan effectively made Manchester City the richest club in the world when I swipe of his hefty chequebook in 2008, the ambitions of this near-immeasurably wealthy man were never going to be restricted to the mere lofty heights of just dominating his home domestic league. European, nay world, domination would have been on the agenda of the minutes of his first meeting at the Etihad Stadium, and it was to this end that the City Football Group were founded in 2014. CFG was founded under the watchful guidance of City CEO and former Barcelona supremo Ferran Soriano in order to administer all of the club’s assets and ‘subsidiaries’ under the same umbrella. Melbourne City and New York City – both 100% owned by the two-time Premier League champions – as well the J-League club Yokohama F. Marinos, of which City own a 20% stake, are all under this hypothetical Mancunian rain shield. The City Football Academy, marketing and services departments and development centres in Asia are also included too.
Additionally, Manchester City also have recognised training and/or scouting partners in Denmark, Spain, Ghana, Portugal, Ireland and the United States, as well as owning academies in South Africa and Ghana. Manchester City also have mutual agreements with several clubs in Scandinavia and the Benelux countries whereby they can loan players from non-EU countries thus circumventing work permit restrictions in this country. It is a real footballing hegemony which Sheikh Mansour is aiming to build from Abu Dhabi via Manchester, one which arguably has never been seen before in terms of the strength of its roots and the sheer amount of tentacles.
There is no doubt that the unprecedented investment over the last eight years afforded to the club - who previously were happy to bask in the relative anonymity of the top-flight mid-table whilst their illustrious neighbours United cast ever lengthening shadows from Old Trafford - has transformed the fortunes of the club on and off the pitch, kicked the Red Devils into relative touch and has by and large made the famously perpetually-beleaguered Citizens supporters very happy fans indeed.
What of the fans in Australia and the United States, though? What do they think of their club, fully competitive in the A-League and MLS respectively, being essentially classified as sheep in Burke’s theoretical farm? Well, supporters will surely not mind too much of their links to such wealthy owners enable them to see the likes of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo grace their home field every other weekend. Since the two Atlantic cousin clubs are not in direct competition – and are unlikely ever to be unless pitted together in the World Club Championship – then there seems to be no real reasoning for any hostility and fans will surely appreciate, if and when their club win an MLS title, the help which Manchester City provided towards them achieving that feat. The benefits for Soriano and the other directors at the Etihad are obvious too, as successful outfits in Australia, USA and Japan act as powerful marketing and advertising tools for the club. CFG are primed for world domination. The blue moon is shining brightly in more places than just Manchester.Click here to stay up to date with AtTheMatch