KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The long arm of European football’s financial fair play law has finally caught up with Manchester City – the English Premier League champions being found guilty of breaches which have cost a two-year ban from international competition and a €30m fine.

A verdict on City had been long awaited with expectations complicated by early rulings in apparently similar when French champions Paris Saint-Germain and Turkey’s Galatasaray escaped punishment on a provcedural and tregularity technicality.

No such legal luck for City, found guilty of “serious breaches” of UEFA’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations. The punishment will spark speculation about the continuance at the club of manager Pep Guardiola and a number of his superstar players.

Manchester City will appeal to sport's supreme court

The decision is subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which means, considering the usual timescale of taking a case to Lausanne,  that City should be able to compete in Europe next season.

This assumes an application for a stay of execution pending a full hearing would be approved by CAS: the complexity and high profile of the case suggests this would be likely.

A club statement said City were “disappointed but not surprised” by the “prejudicial” decision and would appeal.

The independent Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body said City had broken the rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016”, adding that the club “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.

Media claims

UEFA launched an investigation after German newspaper Der Spiegel published leaked documents in November 2018 alleging City had inflated the value of a sponsorship deal, misleading European football’s governing body over compliance with FFP rules requiring clubs to break even.

The source of the leaks as later revealed to have been a Portuguese computer specialist named Rui Pinto, who has now been charged with 147 criminal offences – though these concern hacking offences only against domestic clubs.

City have already been fined £49m in 2014 for a previous breach of regulations. The assessment by the panel that City had misled it deliberately was doubtless a contributory factor in the level of punishment.

UEFA said:

Following a hearing held on 22 January 2020 the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body, chaired by José da Cunha Rodrigues, has today notified Manchester City Football Club of the final decision on the case which was referred by the CFCB Chief Investigator.

The Adjudicatory Chamber, having considered all the evidence, has found that Manchester City Football Club committed serious breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016.

The Adjudicatory Chamber has also found that in breach of the regulations the Club failed to cooperate in the investigation of this case by the CFCB.

The Adjudicatory Chamber has imposed disciplinary measures on Manchester City Football Club directing that it shall be excluded from participation in UEFA club competitions in the next two seasons (ie. the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons) and pay a fine of €30m.

City denial

City set out their response in their own statement:

The club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position.

In December 2018, the UEFA chief investigator publicly previewed the outcome and sanction he intended to be delivered to Manchester City, before any investigation had even begun.

The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked UEFA process he oversaw has meant that there was little doubt in the result that he would deliver. The club has formally complained to the Uefa disciplinary body, a complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling.

Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA. With this prejudicial process now over, the club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity.

Financial Fair Play was devised under the UEFA presidency of Michel Platini to prevent clubs in its competitions from spending beyond their means and stamp out “financial doping” within football.

Accounting control

Under the rules, financial losses are limited and clubs are also obliged to meet all their transfer and employee payment commitments at all times.

Clubs need to balance football-related expenditure – transfers and wages – with television and ticket income, plus revenues raised by their commercial departments. Money spent on stadiums, training facilities, youth development or community projects is exempt.

The CFCB was set up to investigate, assess and impose penalties which start with suspension from European competitions and include fines, withholding prize money, transfer bans, points deductions, player registration bans and restriction on the number of players who can be registered for UEFA competitions.

City are still alive in this season’s Champions League and will face Real Madrid in the forthcoming knockout second round.