Manchester City will play in the Champions League next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted the club’s two-year ban from European football.
City were handed the suspension by UEFA’s club financial control body (CFCB) in February for “serious breaches” of club licensing and financial fair play regulations.
The CFCB said City had overstated sponsorship revenue in their accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016, and for failing to co-operate with its investigation.
The Premier League club vehemently denied any wrongdoing and appealed the decision at CAS last month, after previously describing the UEFA disciplinary process as “prejudicial”.
After hearing evidence over the course of three days in June, CAS has now overturned the suspension and reduced City’s initial €30m fine to €10m (£8.96m) after finding “most of the alleged breaches reported were either not established or time-barred”.
A statement from CAS read: “As the charges with respect to any dishonest concealment of equity funding were clearly more significant violations than obstructing the CFCB’s investigations, it was not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in UEFA’s club competitions for MCFC’s failure to co-operate with the CFCB’s investigations alone.
“However, considering i) the financial resources of MCFC; ii) the importance of the cooperation of clubs in investigations conducted by the CFCB, because of its limited investigative means; and iii) MCFC’s disregard of such principle and its obstruction of the investigations, the CAS Panel found that a significant fine should be imposed on MCFC and considered it appropriate to reduce UEFA’s initial fine by 2/3, i.e. to the amount of EUR 10 million.”City ‘welcome’ ruling
City are now free to compete in the Champions League next season, having secured second place in the Premier League with a 5-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.
The Premier League club welcomed the decision in a statement, which read: “Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”
City are still in this year’s Champions League competition – and secured a 2-1 away win at Real Madrid in their last-16 tie just before football’s shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.UEFA ‘remain committed’ to Financial Fair Play
UEFA said that despite the decision, both itself and the European Club Association “remain committed” to the principles of Financial Fair Play.
“UEFA takes note of the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce the sanction imposed on Manchester City by UEFA’s independent club financial control body for alleged breaches of the UEFA club licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations,” read a statement.
“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations.
“Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.”Can UEFA appeal the CAS ruling?
Sports lawyer Daniel Geey says UEFA could potentially appeal the CAS ruling at the Swiss Federal Tribunal but says it is unlikely the decision would be overturned.
“It does happen on occasion in sports cases, but the grounds to be able to appeal those decisions are pretty narrow, usually based on procedural fairness, jurisdiction or public policy grounds,” he told Sky Sports News.
“For the time being at least, it’s a very big victory for Manchester City.”
It’s a stunning victory for Manchester City. If you’re a City supporter, it’s fantastic news. If you’re Pep Guardiola, it’s fantastic news.
They haven’t fully won the case as they still are being fined but CAS has decided the punishment was too harsh.
As far as UEFA are concerned, these Financial Fair Play rules are here to stay, but if you look at Manchester City’s stunning victory, it means there has to be question marks over the future of Financial Fair Play. Is it more trouble than it’s worth?
We’ve seen so many of these cases being dragged out at the Court of Arbitration for Sport that you’ve got to ask whether it is time for UEFA to go back to the drawing board and look at the rules again.