For UEFA, it is just a slight exaggeration to say the battle is existential. Defeat would imply successfully admitting that Europe’s largest, richest groups are actually too huge to tame, and that the physique theoretically accountable for corralling them is, in actuality, nothing greater than the organizer of the occasional glitzy draw occasion in Monte Carlo.
For Manchester Metropolis, it’s, primarily, an opportunity to show that it’s the golf equipment who make the foundations now, that it isn’t UEFA’s job to dictate who can make investments cash within the sport, to display that monetary truthful play is nothing greater than a tool to lock in soccer’s established order, to maintain out the younger and the daring and the bold.
The membership can take that stance, after all, as a result of soccer is — like all sports activities — inherently tribal. Few, if any, of its followers blame their workforce for any of this. On social media, as on match days on the Etihad Stadium, it’s onerous to seek out any sense of disappointment that Metropolis could have bent the foundations.
As an alternative, wagons have been circled, strains drawn. Metropolis’s followers have lengthy booed the pompous anthem that blares out at first of Champions League video games — one thing that predates the present investigation — however, when it subsequent performs on the Etihad earlier than the go to of Actual Madrid subsequent month, count on a torrent of hostility. Metropolis’s followers are arrayed behind their membership: UEFA is towards them; it’s a witch-hunt; it’s time to drain the swamp.
However the purpose the membership has no selection however to combat, and to combat for so long as doable, is completely different. Metropolis might want the fees to be overturned as a result of it believes in its personal “irrefutable” innocence, however the anger with which it has reacted at each stage speaks to a different motivation: not the necessity to vindicate its loyalists, however to take care of the validity of the challenge for many who it was designed to win over.