Neil Humphreys: Manchester City deserve to be banned like Chelsea
Fifa fine not enough after transfer probe, Chelsea were given two-window ban for essentially the same offence
On social media, football tribalism often comes with less subtlety than monkeys throwing fruit at each other.
Today, Manchester City and Chelsea fans are taking turns to trade insults, fuming at the apparent prejudice/sympathy shown to the other club.
Put simply, the Londoners were handed a transfer ban and the English Premier League champions weren't - for essentially the same offence.
And now, everyone is raging against the Fifa machines, those suits in Zurich showing preferential treatment for their fellow money men in Manchester.
Ordinarily, this stuff gets filed under daily vitriolic abuse among EPL fans, but there is something galling about Fifa's latest ruling.
Why were City spared a suspension when Chelsea were given a two transfer-window ban for the same crime of breaching rules on signing youth players?
City were merely fined 370,000 Swiss francs (S$527,000), which has less impact on their financial well-being than a kid losing his lunch money.
Pep Guardiola's treble winners were generally expected to receive at least a one-window ban for breaching article 19 of Fifa's regulations on the status and transfer of players, which states that "international transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over… 18."
City's guilt wasn't in doubt. Indeed, they admitted their culpability. And yet, they escaped serious punishment for reasons that are either slightly troubling or very contentious, depending on your point of view (or club colours).
Reports suggest the number of misdemeanours played a factor. Fifa found breaches in 29 Chelsea cases. City's infringements are in the single digits.
But should size matter here? One infringement or 29 infringements, both clubs were found guilty.
A single murderer and an unrepentant serial killer are both sentenced for the same crime. A lone gunman doesn't get off on a technicality: i.e. it was his first killing and he's really, really sorry.
That's the most disconcerting aspect of Fifa's ruling. The organisation's comparative leniency was due, in part, to City acknowledging their guilt.
In a statement, Fifa said: "The disciplinary committee took into account the fact that Manchester City FC accepted its responsibility."
Well, that's all right then. Football's governing body has turned the process of crime and punishment into basic parenting for toddlers.
City misbehaved and got caught, but they still get to go out and play because they owned up.
Whatever side one takes in Fifa's ruling, the optics aren't great.
City already have a reputation for buying their way to success, sucking up every shiny morsel like aquatic bottom feeders as they "sports-wash" the reputations of their munificent owners.
With a bottomless pit of cash and a subs bench more expensive than most first teams, a cloud of suspicion will always hang over the Etihad.
And the lavish spenders are still not in the clear. The Fifa case was only one of several on-going investigations.
Uefa continue to examine City's compliance with the European football body's Financial Fair Play rules. A ban from next season's Champions League remains a possibility.
While the EPL are also looking into City's recruitment of academy players and FFP compliance and the English Football Association are investigating the signing of Jadon Sancho as a 14-year-old from Watford.
These probes may all eventually rule in City's favour, but just consider again the grubby glare that they cast across the club.
All levels of the sport - domestic (EPL and English FA), continental (Uefa) and global (Fifa) - are investigating the transfers, sponsorships and financial transactions of a club that dominates its league to an extent never previously seen with the most expensive squad ever assembled.
That's the overriding issue here.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
If football is serious at all about the concept of fair play, then the game's administrators should at least pretend that a level playing field exists.
City's owners already have every financial advantage. They don't need further assistance from Fifa.
Despite having the best of everything, the club still cut a corner or two to sign under-age talents - and admitted as much. Whether their officials were aware of the infringements misses the point entirely.
The richest club broke the rules in their quest to be richer still, in every sense.
They didn't play fair.
For that reason alone, City deserved a transfer ban.