By 90Min
November 07, 2018

Manchester City continue to be the subject of shock revelations from German publication Der Spiegel this week as part of an ongoing series of articles from the magazine based on internal emails obtained by the Football Leaks network of journalists.

Alleged evidence of the manipulation of sponsorship contracts, disguised owner investment, actively 'fighting' against Financial Fair Play and removing operating costs from the business are just some of the things that have come out so far.

'Chapter Three' of the series has Der Spiegel looking into PR, the role of executive Simon Pearce, who has already had several mentions in the earlier stories this week, and the great 'control' that City exert, including the hiring of current manager Pep Guardiola.

Der Spiegel notes that 'City executives have shown themselves to be fond of flexing their muscles', and that was seemingly never more clear than when Guardiola was drafted in. It wasn't until February 2016 that the Spaniard's arrival in time for the start of next season was officially announced, but City had used their power to kill a story that had emerged several weeks before.

It is said that Guardiola signed his contract with City as early as October 2015. A story of a meeting between the then Bayern Munich coach and Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football, eventually came out in a British newspaper, but an internal email revealed how the club ensured it was taken down, while other media outlets were instructed to 'ignore it'.

Alex Livesey/GettyImages

It feeds into what Der Spiegel describes as being able to 'control the narrative in Britain' and promoting a positive image for the club and its owners. It is even alleged that the core motivation for Abu Dhabi interests in City is less a hobby for Sheikh Mansour and more a concerted attempt to market the emirate and improve relations with the west - a sensational claim.

There are also questions asked about the murky human rights record of the UAE.

In Der Spiegel's article, journalist Nicholas McGeehan describes the United Arab Emirates as a "brutal, torturing police state at home and a perpetrator of war crimes abroad," adding, "I remember asking colleagues at Human Rights Watch if there is any other country with that situation, with nobody in the country who you could talk to. And they said: North Korea and Turkmenistan."

City executive Simon Pearce is described as one of Abu Dhabi crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed's 'PR men'. Pearce, who is said be viewed internally at City 'with a combination of fear and respect', also works for one of City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak's companies in Abu Dhabi. And he apparently made a point of 'disrupting' a Freedom on Information request from the aforementioned McGeehan in 2013.

The request related to a contract between the club and Manchester city council over the Eithad Campus and is said to have been deemed 'low risk' by Pearce. But in one alleged email two weeks before the deadline he instructed staff to only give up the information on the last day.

Der Spiegel also focuses on a sponsorship deal with Arabtec. The Dubai-based construction company had been the subject of negative press coverage in previous years over poor conditions for migrant workers. City apparently did risk assessment on entering into a contract with a company with such a reputation and one spokeswoman is even said to have directly warned club executives of the potential problems, pointing out that any association between City and Arabtec 'would be like winning the jackpot' for McGeehan of Human Rights Watch.

Dan Mullan/GettyImages

The deal still went ahead anyway, with City pocketing £7m-per-year. The relationship was subsequently only publicised in Arab states, as well as Russia and Turkey.

Der Spiegel once again make clear that City's only response to all of this is, "The attempt to damage the Club's reputation is organised and clear."

When asked about the leaks at a press conference on Tuesday, Guardiola backed the club.

OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

"The club has made a statement on Friday about what happened, stolen emails. Of course I trust the club and what they have done. Of course, we want to follow the rules. UEFA, FIFA and the Premier League do what they have to do," he said.

"Believe me, I'm completely honest. I don't know what happened, I'm a manager, focused on the pitch, the locker room. I am a manager. I'm completely out of how we handle this situation. I'm part of the club, I support the club. We want to do what we have to do in terms of the rules."

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