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Man City and Liverpool want the same thing after 115 charges and new legal action

It was without any sense of irony that Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak bemoaned how long the process regarding the alleged 115 charges for breaching the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules is taking.

“I think we as a club have to respect that there is a process that we have to go through, and we’re going through it,” he conceded in his annual end-of-season review. “It’s taking longer than what anyone hoped for, but it is what it is, and I’ve always repeated, let’s be judged by the facts, and not by claims and counterclaims.”

English football has been waiting impatiently to judge City by the facts ever since the charges were made public 18 months ago.

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It’s worth pointing out that City have always protested their innocence throughout the entire process. But such a stance is undermined by the fact that 35 of the aforementioned charges against them are for failing to cooperate with Premier League investigations December 2018 and February 2023. A hearing, belatedly, is set to get under way later this year.

Understandably, then, City have carried an asterisk against their name for as long as this cloud has hung over their head. On the pitch, they have produced the greatest side the Premier League has ever seen, but question marks over how they got there persist. Much to the frustration of Al Mubarak.

“Of course, it’s frustrating. I think the referencing is always frustrating,” he declared. “Having it being talked about the way it’s being talked about.

“I can feel for our fanbase, and everyone associated with the club, to have these charges constantly referenced.”

If he is frustrated, you must wonder how he thinks the rest of English football feels about the ongoing affair, waiting to judge City by the facts - either to clear their name and legacy or punish them accordingly.

Yet it is still possible to separate Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side from the potentially tarnished City honours list. After all, Liverpool are the team who have had more reason than most to curse their title rivals over the past six years, having twice missed out on the Premier League title by a solitary point despite registering 90+ point seasons.

Jurgen Klopp always respected the juggernaut that his own side were up against, judging them only by what he saw out on the pitch.

"I don't worry about these things. Everybody knows about the 115 charges, but I have no clue what that means,” he said in one of his final interviews as Liverpool manager. “I only know the number.

"Whatever has happened at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world - and that is really important. If you put any other manager in that club, they don't win the league four times in a row. That's down to him and his boys. Does that mean they can do what they want? No.

"But I don't know what they did - if they did anything - and I'm not here to say they have. We will see. Of course, I would like to know (if City are guilty) one day. Everyone wants to know. But I will be somewhere else.

"The quality of Pep makes the difference. We will see. It's not my problem and I am fine with what we have and what we've achieved."

To further complicate matters, on Tuesday it was revealed that City had started a legal battle against the Premier League over their Associated Party Transaction rules. The rules were introduced in December 2021 after the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United and are aimed at stopping clubs from exaggerating commercial deals with companies linked to their owners.

At least 14 Premier League teams signed off the tightening of the regulations, but that is seemingly not good enough for City as they challenge the legality of such rulings and pursue compensation.

While that case is not directly linked to City’s 115 charges, it could have a knock-on effect. After all, they have already been accused of inflating sponsorship deals, before the regulations were tightened this season. If their validity ends up being questioned during this process, there will likely be an impact on the subsequent charges the club are also facing.

A two-week private arbitration hearing, which is due to start on Monday, will put City on collision course with many of their Premier League rivals with the one-time European champions arguing the league's democratic system of needing at least 14 clubs to implement rule changes gives the majority a level of control they deem as unacceptable.

It is curious that, as stated by The Times, an 165-page legal document prepared by City claims that the Associated Party Transaction rules were approved by rivals to stop their domination of the Premier League and are a "tyranny of the majority".

After all, in his annual season review, Al Mubarak claimed that rules introduced during the past 12 months will actually make the Premier League less competitive.

“You won’t see the same level [of competition] as we’ve seen in the last years, because of the levels of regulations that have come into place over the last 12 months,” he claimed.

“The Premier League got to where it is today by being the most competitive league. So I hope there is a bit more sensibility in regulating. Always a balanced approach is good from all the leagues, be it in England or the rest of Europe.”

Yet Al Mubarak would contradict that claim by also talking up how City are now pursuing a fifth successive league title, and lauded their efforts in being crowned champions of England in six of the last seven seasons - including becoming the first English side to win four top-flight titles in a row.

What City have achieved is historic, but how they have achieved it remains questionable - and will remain questionable until their 115 charges are resolved whether Al Mubarak likes it or not.

Like any football chairman, he wants the best for his club and for them to be successful. But the pity party demanding plaudits is horrendously obtuse, while also attempting to dictate how football should be governed to retain City as English football’s dominant force and build up as closed a shop as possible.

In their claim, City argued that the present rules will limit their ability to buy the best players and force them to charge fans more for tickets. They say they may also have to cut spending on youth development, women’s football, and community programmes, in what is a bizarre threat in a desperate attempt to preserve this status quo.

A proverbial sulking school child, City are essentially stomping their feet, threatening to strop off home with the ball firmly tucked underneath their arm unless they get their own way. They might try to convince themselves they are fighting tyranny in the Premier League, but they have spectacularly failed to read the room.

Try as they might to present themselves as otherwise, City are not the plucky underdog that is being wronged by the big bad Premier League.

It’s time to face the music. Whether they successfully clear their name and erase the accompanying asterisk or not, English football, having grown tired of waiting, just wants answers.