In Manchester City’s annual report for the 2013-2014 season, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak professed that “we are never focused only on our men’s first team”.
On Monday City officially revealed just how much attention it has been paying to other areas of the club with the opening of its new £200m youth development and training centre - the City Football Academy (CFA).
Despite the fact that City are yet to field a home-grown English player who has graduated to the first team since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's takeover in 2008, the reigning Premier League champions have been keen to stress their desire to improve all areas of the club.
Indeed, when manager Roberto Mancini was sacked in the summer of 2013, City said the decision to sack the Italian had been motivated by “a need to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club”.
And in a swish, slick video on the CFA uploaded to YouTube today, City have revealed the size and scope of that approach.
The CFA is an 80-acre development forming part of the 200-acre Etihad Campus, and includes 16.6 football pitches as well as a 7,000 capacity stadium for academy and women’s teams.
It will even serve as a global headquarters for the other teams owned by the City Football Group including New York City FC and Melbourne City FC.
And while the large-scale project may have been funded by Abu Dhabi, it has been built by its surrounding community.
Around 70 per cent of its workforce has been drawn from Greater Manchester while 883 contracts have been awarded to local companies. Furthermore, City claim they have spent £3m on new community facilities, including swimming facilities and a bridge connected the CFA to the Etihad Stadium, as they redeveloped the previously crumbling brownfield site where the CFA is based.
No wonder the leader of Manchester city council Sir Richard Leese lauded both the CFA project and the club’s relationship with the community.
Manchester City Football Club is a valued long term partner and has demonstrated time and time again it is rooted within this community.The investment into the stadium and surroundings, now known as the Etihad Campus has been unprecedented under the ownership of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed. It [the CFA] is a project that has turned a derelict 80-acre site into a valuable community asset.
Chancellor George Osborne attended the opening and described the partnership between the football club and the city council as a “benchmark for public private partnership” that was “driving investment into the North of England”.
In City’s most recent financial results, released last week, the club revealed increases across the board in commercial, broadcast and matchday revenues yet still posted a bottom line loss.
No one could argue that the club’s successes since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover to date hadn’t primarily come from colossal investment in the playing squad - City have spent just shy of £500m in that time (compared to Chelsea’s £276m and United’s £140m).
Yet with Uefa’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations clamping down on lavish transfer spend, the Manchester club has no choice but to invest its vast wealth in more creative avenues.
City were hit with a £16m fine in May for breaching FFP regulation, yet as far back as 2008 Sheikh Mansour claimed he was “building a structure for the future."
The structure is in place. It’s now up to City to use it to shape their future.