Just what is Manchester City’s problem with the Champions League?

Manchester City are favourites to win the Champions League but as Brandon Evans explains, they need to get over their love-hate relationship with the tournament first.

Brandon Evans

Manchester City are currently contesting their ninth-consecutive year in the Champions League and have enjoyed some memorable nights in the tournament, but the club is yet to win the coveted trophy and fans clamour for City to one day reign supreme as the Kings of Europe.

However, having said that, City fans are known to have a somewhat complicated relationship with the Champions League, but more specifically with the competition’s organisers: UEFA.

Over the years, City fans have developed a deep mistrust towards UEFA and its premier competition, and the animosity felt by fans towards the organisation has been brewing for almost a decade.

In protest of UEFA’s actions, which are often deemed to be malicious and unjustifiable by fans, the City faithful have taken to vehemently booing the Champions League anthem when played before kick-off, and the trend which started several years ago has almost become a routine at the Etihad Stadium.

Whilst City fans are not the sole group that regularly boo the Champions League anthem, with Barcelona supporters also jeering the song, City’s fans are the most notable for heckling the anthem and the City faithful do so for a multitude of reasons.

One of the first instances which began to form City fans’ distrust of UEFA was during City’s 2011/12 Europa League campaign. In February 2012, away to FC Porto, City’s Mario Balotelli was subject to a tirade of disgusting racist abuse, and what followed was a €20,000 fine for the Portuguese club.

The following month away to Sporting Lisbon, City was fined €30,000 for simply returning to the pitch 30 seconds late for the second half, and the ridiculousness of the situation lay the foundations for City fans’ dislike of UEFA.

City fans’ loathing of UEFA increased in 2014 when City was fined a staggering £49m (£32m of which was suspended), allocated a spending cap and had their Champions League squad size capped at 21 for failure to adhere to Financial Fair Play regulations.

Many City fans are aggrieved by the way the club was treated, believing that UEFA maintains an anti-City agenda and that the club was targeted due to City’s emergence as a power in European football, with FFP being used to prevent the club from competing with the establishment.

Just a year later, FFP rules were relaxed amid sustained complaints and legal challenges from across Europe, adding salt into Manchester City’s wounds as only they and PSG were heavily sanctioned by UEFA.

City fans were further angered in 2014 by the situation regarding UEFA handing CSKA Moscow a stadium ban shortly before City were to visit.

Hundreds of Blues who had pre-booked flights for the trip to Russia were subsequently unable to attend the game, and those fans ought to have been refunded by UEFA, but predictably, never were.

To make matters worse, however, over 300 Muscovites (some in CSKA colours) were present at the game, yet CSKA avoided further sanction by UEFA and even had their stadium ban reduced after an appeal.


In recent years, fan’s mistrust of UEFA has intensified greatly as City have had several pivotal decisions go against them in the Champions League with the Blues crashing out last season due to a Fernando Llorente goal which clearly struck his arm prior to crossing the line.

And in the 2018 quarter-final against Liverpool, Leroy Sané had a crucial goal incorrectly disallowed whilst City were behind and chasing the game.

The poor decision led to an irate Guardiola protesting before being sent off followed by City’s momentum fading without the Catalan’s presence.

Whilst City fans clamour to one day win the Champions League, the resentment towards UEFA and the booing of the tournament’s anthem has become almost traditional for City fans and the trend of booing the song shows no sign of slowing down.

Moreover, given the perceived injustices the club has endured in recent years, and as the dislike and mistrust of UEFA increase year-in-year-out, one would speculate that the fans’ jeering of the anthem will continue to grow.

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