soccer

Discuss the links between Manchester, City and Manchester City in the questions

MANCHESTER, England — In the 14 years since Manchester City was bought by an investment vehicle linked to the state of Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s fortunes have transformed the club from a Premier League soccer club that is also domestic champion to one of the sport’s global powers. .

However, according to a report published by researchers in England on Thursday, the scope of this investment extends far beyond the confines of the club’s Etihad Stadium. In it, the report’s authors said the club’s owners had benefited from “sweetheart deals” with local lawmakers that allowed them to buy large tracts of public land in Manchester at significantly lower prices.

A 65-page report published by researchers at the University of Sheffield found that Manchester Life, a joint development company between Manchester City Council and Abu Dhabi United Group, a private equity firm owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan. The deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and brother of the country’s president – has led to “a transfer of public wealth into private hands that is difficult to justify as reasonable.”

In recent years, Manchester has been seen as the standard bearer of urban regeneration in Britain, reversing years of post-industrial decline to reshape the city center into something dynamic and desirable. This building and property boom has been surpassed only by London; by some figures it is the fastest growing city in England.

Manchester City’s ownership has been central to this, investing millions of dollars in deprived areas in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, which bears the name of the UAE’s national airline, Etihad. When the Manchester Life venture was launched in 2014, six years after buying the football team, it was planned to expand the investment into Ancoats, the area between the stadium and Manchester city centre.

However, researchers say ADUG got out of the deal better than its partner. They found that nine properties in the Ancoats district were sold to holding companies registered in the offshore tax haven of Jersey, but ultimately owned by an investment vehicle, at prices below the comparable market value of similar properties.

Manchester City Council insisted that all of the deals, which gave United Group holding companies a 999-year lease on the property, told researchers that all proposals “achieved the best possible consideration”. Despite the city’s chronic homelessness problem, developers were exempted from having to include affordable housing by planning officers who decided there was enough supply in the area to meet demand, the report found.

The report also concluded that “observable rental and sales income streams” from the 1,468 houses built so far “only benefit Abu Dhabi interests”. Although Manchester City Council claims it has a revenue-sharing arrangement with its partners, the researchers said they found “no return on the Manchester Life investment in the council’s accounts.”

Although the management company overseeing the developments booked £10.1 million in rental income (just over $12 million) in 2021, researchers found that because it is ultimately owned by a Jersey-based holding company, it paid just £4,000 in corporation tax.

“Our assessment of Manchester Life’s development is that Manchester City Council ‘sold the family silver too cheap’,” the researchers concluded.

They said it was particularly damaging given the reputational risk to British city lawmakers sufficiently intertwined with a group backed by the autocratic state’s elite, described by Amnesty International as one of the “most brutal police forces”. States in the Middle East.” In recent years, countries such as Russia, China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been accused of using money and influence, particularly in sports, to wash their reputations. But investments in real estate and other ventures, and the people who enable them, have also drawn attention. .

“In the long term, this raises questions about what values ​​and whose values ​​the city represents,” the researchers wrote of land deals approved by Manchester council, adding: “This is important because Manchester is seen as a model for urban regeneration. Other authorities should follow, but if it model is built on attracting developers in the short term by selling access to their assets at a discount, then it may not be a reliable and sustainable model for others.

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