Man City's appeal of UEFA ban: Cloak of secrecy remains

The CAS has scheduled three days at an undisclosed location for an appeal hearing by video conference link connecting lawyers in Switzerland and England.

Manchester City's Etihad Stadium   -  Getty Images

A rare level of secrecy cloaks the court case opening Monday to decide if Manchester City will stay banned from European competition for two seasons.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has scheduled three days at an undisclosed location for an appeal hearing by video conference link connecting lawyers in Switzerland and England.

The Lausanne-based court said on Friday both City and UEFA requested confidentiality for the case.

The identities of the three CAS judges — selected by each side and the court — have also been protected in an intensely scrutinized legal fight.

READ| CAS to hear Man City’s appeal against 2-year ban in June

The allegations include that City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, misled UEFA over several years to comply with financial integrity rules for clubs.

The stakes are high in a case that provokes the tribal loyalties of club soccer and the distrust some fans have for sports ruling bodies.

If City’s appeal fails, it faces losing hundreds of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money and some star players during a two-year exile from world soccer’s most prized club competition.

Defeat for UEFA would undermine the Financial Fair Play (FFP) policy it says helps stabilize the soccer economy across 55 member nations.

Whatever the judges decide, City is still a contender to win this season’s Champions League.

The CAS panel’s verdict is expected before the round of 16 resumes in August, five months after UEFA paused games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

READ| Two years would be long – De Bruyne may consider Man City future if Champions League ban is upheld

THE CASE

City was punished in February for serious breaches of UEFA’s FFP rules monitoring club finances and failing to cooperate with investigators.

The investigation was opened by UEFA-appointed experts after leaked club documents were reported in German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018.

The published evidence appeared to show City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hid the source of revenue linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi.

A UEFA-appointed judging panel excluded City from playing in the Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup until the 2022-23 season.

City was also fined 30 million euros ($33.9 million) from its Champions League prize money, almost one-third of its UEFA payout for reaching the quarterfinals last season.

The club denies wrongdoing.

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EXTRA TIME

The CAS verdict will not affect this season’s Champions League.

City leads Real Madrid 2-1 after the first leg of the round of 16 in Spain. UEFA will decide this month how to complete the competition.

If City’s ban is upheld, it could still be European champion yet barred from defending the title, and from playing in the Super Cup against the Europa League winner.

City is also likely to be Premier League runner-up this season. A European ban would award its Champions League group-stage entry to the fifth-placed English team — currently Manchester United.

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