Manchester City transfer ban: “We were lined up and beaten physically with a stick for being late” – the story behind the partnership in Ghana

15 March 2019

Manchester City transfer ban right to dream academy
Photo: Getty Images Manchester City is set to be handed a two-window transfer ban by FIFA starting this summer for breaching rules of signing youth players and third-party ownership.

The Academy beat students with sticks and made them kneel in the baking sun for hours as physical punishment, according to one of the boys.

According to Football Leaks documents Manchester City and Danish football club FC Nordsjaelland made a contract giving Manchester City academy players ”for free”.

Nikolaj Babis Nielsen contact@offthepitch.com

On the surface, the Right to Dream Academy, which is now at the centre of the alleged transfer ban to Manchester City, is a Cinderella-story about giving poor, young African Players a way out of poverty and the chance to play professional football.

But underneath, it all it is also a story about exploitation, physical punishment and using young men as pawns in a larger financial scheme between a giant English football club and an unknown Danish football club.

Manchester City is set to be handed a two-window transfer ban by FIFA starting this summer for breaching rules on signing youth players and third-party ownership, the Sun reports. And in all this commotion, a Danish football club is one of the main reasons as to why FIFA is allegedly going to investigate the club.

The young boys were sometimes told to kneel on the ground in the baking sun for hours

Danish football club FC Nordsjaelland may not ring a bell to most people outside Denmark, and the club might not be expected to be connected to a giant like Manchester City, but in fact the Danish club are one of the reasons for the investigation – specifically, a partnership between the two clubs involving young African players.

Vernon denied claims

FC Nordsjaelland is owned by the Briton Tom Vernon, who also owns the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana - the football academy linking Manchester City and FC Nordsjaelland.

Though Vernon has always denied the illegal parts of the deal between The Right to Dream Academy and Manchester City, documents from Football Leaks have revealed that FC Nordsjaelland and Manchester City made a legally-binding agreement for the Danish club to give away West African talents from the Ghanaian training operation to the English club for free in exchange for funds, Danish newspaper Politiken reported last year.

In an interview with Politiken, Ghanaian footballer Collins Tanor paints a picture that is more like a nightmare than a right to dream: “I remember one incident when we had lost a football and searched for it in the bush, and we were all late for school. Then we were lined up and beaten physically with a stick for being late,” said Tanor.

In the interview, he refers to other episodes where teachers used physical punishment as a tool. The young boys were sometimes told to kneel on the ground in the baking sun for hours. They could be punished for even the smallest mistakes. The punishment would almost always be collective, and students were sometimes deprived of food because of errors.

In a 19-page contract, Manchester City committed themselves to paying around £1 million annually - payments which gave the club the right to get the academy’s biggest talents for “nil consideration”

Vernon has publicly played down the accusations from Tanor and other former students at the academy.

Why the deal was illegal

According to the documents from Football Leaks, FC Nordsjaelland and Manchester City signed a deal that gave Manchester City the right to choose players from the Right to Dream Academy for free. The collaboration seems to date back to 2010, when City secretly began to sponsor the academy.

In a 19-page contract, Manchester City committed themselves to paying around £1 million annually - payments which gave the club the right to get the academy’s biggest talents for “nil consideration”, when the players turned 18. The contract also obliged the Right to Dream Academy to “use it’s best endeavors to identify and sign players (…) between the ages of 10 and 18 with potential to play for Manchester City First team (sic)”.

In a 2016 contract, Vernon and FC Nordsjaelland signed an agreement with City in which the English club had to give written consent for FC Nordsjaelland to sell any academy players to a third club. According to FIFA’s rules, this is a breach of third-party ownership.

Under the rules, two clubs are not allowed to make a deal that permits “any third party” to influence the sale of players, and in the view of sports lawyer Dan Chapman - who was spoken to by Politiken - the deal gave Manchester City an illegal degree of influence, because the English club got “an absolute right of veto over the academy player moving to a club of his choice”.

In a written answer to the Danish newspaper, Vernon stated that “no player has ever been forced to make a decision about their own future”, and said “they always have the last say in any decision about which club they want to join”.