On 13 May Manchester City, the club I have supported since I was a boy in the 1970s, won the Premier League, their first championship since they won the old Football League in 1968. In those days, fans stood on old, groaning terraces; there were no sponsors’ logos to compete with the badge on the players’ shirts; and to my mind at least, the game had nothing to do with money. This year, the championship was won in injury time at the end of the final game of the season with a goal by the Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero, whom City had bought for £38 million less than a year before, and even the children hugging their disbelieving dads knew that money was the reason. City were acquired four years ago by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, scion of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, who has since spent almost £1 billion revitalising an exhausted club, the majority of it on signing and paying 22 new players. The City of Manchester Stadium, built with £127 million of public money for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in the poorest part of town, has been renamed the Etihad Stadium, after the Abu Dhabi airline which pays lavishly for the privilege. The executives appointed by the new regime have been diligent in expressing their respect for the club’s history and loyal supporters, while branding it in such a way as to associate its globally televised triumphs with the image of Abu Dhabi.
LRB 30 August 2012 | PDF Download