Manchester City wins appeal over European competitions ban

Manchester City’s two-year ban from European club football has been overturned.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) delivered its verdict today having considered City’s appeal against its ban by European ruling body UEFA in February this year.

Their ban, and a £26.9m fine, was imposed after UEFA ruled the club had breached FFP (Financial Fair Play) regulations.

But today Cas ruled in City’s favour, and reduced the fine from 30 million euros (£26.9m)  to 10 million euros (£9m).

It means City will be able to continue its record of nine successive years of competing in the lucrative European Champions League.

And it means the club is likely to retain its current team to go into next season’s European fray.

Top players like Kevin de Bruyne had warned that he could consider joining other clubs able to take part in the Champions League if the original UEFA decision was upheld.

However, manager Pep Guardiola had already given an undertaking that he would remain with the Premier League club, come what may.

The club issued a statement following this morning’s decision, saying: “Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, 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.”

UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) ruled on February 14 this year that City had committed “serious breaches” of FFP rules between 2012 and 2016.

Among a series of claims it was alleged that City had inflated the size of sponsorship deals so owner Sheikh Mansour was able to invest more money into the club than FFP regulations allowed, giving them an unfair advantage.

However, the club immediately announced it would appeal to Cas on the grounds it believed the CFCB process was not independent.

City said the information the ban was based on was obtained illegally and represented “a clear and obvious attempt” to damage its reputation.

They were also critical of the publication of a series of leaked emails in the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018.

Speaking to the club’s own website in the days after the initial verdict, City chief executive, Ferran Soriano, said: “The allegations are simply not true.”

He said the club felt the whole process had been “prejudiced” against them and evidence used by the FFP chamber relied on “out of context, stolen emails”.

“All we are looking for is a proper adjudication from an independent and impartial body that is going to take the time to look at all the evidence without preconceptions,” he added.

“The fans can be sure of two things. The first one is that the allegations are false. And the second is that we will do everything that can be done to prove so.”

David Pannick QC of Blackstone Chambers and Paul Harris QC of Monckton Chambers, fought City’s case which was heard by three Cas lawyers in private video conferences since June.

Today’s adjudication said: “The Cas award emphasised that most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB were either not established or time-barred.

“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 cooperate 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, ie to the amount of EUR 10 million.”

In response, UEFA said: “UEFA takes note of the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce the sanction imposed on Manchester City FC by UEFA’s independent Club Financial Control Body for alleged breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations.

“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.

“UEFA will be making no further comments on the matter.”

City are still in this season’s Champions League and face Real Madrid in their last-16 home second leg on August 7.

They lead 2-1 from the first leg in Madrid and will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarter-finals, which will be held in Lisbon if they progress on their way to their dream of lifting their first European Champions League trophy.