Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban lifted

According to the Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) ruling, Manchester City's two-year UEFA ban from European football has been lifted.

Etihad Stadium

File image of Manchester City's Etihad Stadium.   -  Twitter @ManCity

The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld City’s appeal against the UEFA ban, but imposed a 10 million euro ($11.3 million) fine for failing to cooperate with investigators.

The verdict by three judges clears the team coached by Pep Guardiola to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season. The case does not affect City’s place in this season’s competition, which resumes next month.

City’s win guarantees tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season. It also protects against players leaving to seek Champions League action with another club.

Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester “no matter what happens” in the courts. UEFA punished Man City in February for “serious breaches” of rules monitoring club finances and failing to cooperate with investigators. The allegations included that City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, misled UEFA over several years to meet financial integrity rules - known as Financial Fair Play - required to enter European club competitions.

City denied wrongdoing, and said it had “irrefutable evidence” the claims were not true.

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

The urgent ruling came one month after a three-day hearing held by video link between Switzerland and England. A full verdict detailing the evidence, expert witness testimony and the judges’ reasons is unlikely to be published for at least several weeks.

UEFA-appointed investigators opened a case after leaked club emails and documents from City officials were published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. They were likely obtained by a hacker from Portugal.

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.

City never disputed the documents were authentic, but argued the evidence was stolen and reported out of context.

UEFA had previously signed off on City’s submitted accounts since 2014. That year, UEFA fined City 20 million euros ($22.6 million) of its Champions League prize money in a first wave of assessments of European clubs’ finances.

UEFA could choose to challenge the CAS ruling at Switzerland’s supreme court. Federal appeals in CAS cases rarely succeed and only consider narrow grounds of legal procedure.

Factbox

  • FFP rules, introduced in 2011, are designed to prevent clubs receiving unlimited funds through inflated sponsorship deals with organisations related to owners.
  • Clubs that breach rules can be barred from European competition but negotiated settlements are more common.
  • UEFA opened an investigation into City in March 2019 after the publication of 'Football Leaks' documents led to allegations that the club's Abu Dhabi owners inflated sponsorship agreements to comply with the FFP requirements.
  • The leaked documents included club emails which referred to money being “routed” through sponsors. Reuters was unable to verify if such payments were made.
  • As well as questioning the nature of the documents, City were unhappy at the way in which UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) conducted the investigation.
  • The CFCB said when City were banned that the club broke rules by “overstating sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016”.
  • It added the club had “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.
  • City denied any wrongdoing, adding they had not received a fair hearing and appealed to sport's highest court.
  • CAS said on Monday after overturning the ban that City would be fined 10 million euros for failing to cooperate with UEFA.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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