In the year 2008, Sheik Mansour became the owner of Manchester City Football Club for the seemingly small amount of £210,000,000. For Blues fans around the country, they’d won the Lottery, Euro Millions and Grand National; the future was looking extravagantly bright. What they didn’t know was they had ascended the tallest ladder in a game of Football Gentrification Snakes and Ladders.
Starting life as a community church-led Football Club going by the name St Marks, the Blues were manufactured to keep young men busy and out of trouble; ironically those values didn’t seem to find Joey Barton or the Etihad Dart Throwing Champion Mario Balotelli. City’s history was a tale of ups and downs, ask any Citizen to remember before the United Arab Emirates takeover you’ll be met with a bloated sigh from puffed cheeks.
It was only 22 years ago, in the 1998/1999 season, that Man City called Division 2 “Home”, light years away from the current year after year ‘disappointment’ of no Champions League title. Little did they know, 10 years after the infamous Play-off Finals penalty shootout against a Tony Pulis-managed, Andy Hessanthaler-inspired Gillingham, they’d be breaking the British transfer record dropping a whopping £32,500,000 on Robinho from Real Madrid; the beginning of a “new normal”. Following 2008, Manchester City have not finished outside the top 5, a remarkable turnaround for a 33-year major trophy drought.
They’d found the real-life cheat code.
As a lifelong Citizen, this was initially welcomed with open arms. I was a kid in a sweet shop with clutched fists in every container, we had everything we wanted. But eventually, like someone who has everything, everything has turned into not enough. Beating the Reds from Salford has become expected, a draw feels like a loss and coming second feels like a relegation. Joe Royle’s “Get knocked down, get up harder” attitude has seemingly vanished.
The pressure on City is mounting, they’ve become the wealthy super villain everyone wants to fail. For many years, most supporters had a soft spot for City, this has dissipated. They’re no longer the loved under-dog, they’re the Doberman that everyone wants to beat. The final hurdle is the Champions League, the last piece in Sheikh Mansour’s footballing jigsaw. But what then? I fully understand that this is a “my diamond shoes are too tight” scenario, but I do have a genuine concern that football could lose its meaning and purpose. What could we want for after this? A fall from grace seems impossible with the gargantuan financial foundations we find ourselves on. Am I going to feel like that spoiled child in a sweet shop forever?
Unfortunately, I don’t find my position a unique one. With gentrification comes a forgotten people “Out with the old, in with the new”. For those who haven’t jumped on the “Emptihad” bandwagon, the Blues have held third, tenth and eleventh position in the “Record Home Attendances” list for quite some time. The fan base has always been there, with its own unique culture of togetherness, resilience and of “typical City” vibes.
With success comes corporate interest, comes the invasion of suits and ultimately escalating ticket prices. With an average ticket price of roughly £60 to watch a team who played in Moss Side for 80 years, many local supporters have been priced out, pushed away and isolated from what could be – and should be – a backbone for a community. Football at the top is no longer about the Twelfth man.
This article may come across as a scathing, anti-City piece but I assure you I have an undying love for this team as I did from day one; I’m merely looking to acknowledge my concerns and worries for the future of football, via the medium of my football club. I am not alone in this. Chelsea are a few years in front of us having been backed by the deep pockets of a Russian oligarch. Across the channel Paris Saint-Germain have taken a similar route with Qatar Sports Investments while on the border with Wales, Wrexham are now owned by Deadpool.
Fans of Newcastle United were initially gutted that their Mbappé-promising, Saudi Arabian takeover fell through, but the club was eventually wrangled out of Mike Ashley’s grubby paws. The precedent set by the ownerships of Chelsea and City, practically hamstrung the remarkably weak fit and proper persons test employed in English football. All in all, top flight football has changed but certainly not for the better.