Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League threat explained

Sports May 15, 2019 10:41

Manchester City is expected to find out its Champions League fate next week, but the champions are facing three further serious allegations.

With Manchester City facing a ban from European competition for allegedly misleading UEFA and breaking FFP rules, we’ve provided a bite-size explanation of the accusations, what they mean, how City have responded and more.

A UEFA panel investigating financial allegations concerning City are expected to recommend the club receive a one-year ban from the Champions League, according to Sky Sports sources.


At its core, Man City are accused of misleading UEFA. But the nuts and bolts are more complex.

UEFA have been investigating files, including hacked e-mails — first reported by German publication Der Spiegel last year via Football Leaks — which appear to show City inflating sponsorship income.

These files reportedly include documents and e-mails which show efforts made by City officials to skirt Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulation, by disguising cash infusions from a UAE state-backed investment company as inflated sponsorship agreements, including from Etihad, the club’s main sponsor.

For example, a file discovered by Der Spiegel last year suggests that Etihad accounted for just £8m of a £59.5m sponsorship agreement, and the rest was made up from ADUG (Abu Dhabi United Group), the investment group Sheikh Mansour used to buy Manchester City over a decade ago.


Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League threat explained
Pep Guardiola has some explaining to do.Source:Getty Images

UEFA’s FFP rules are designed to ensure the amount clubs spend on players and wages is close to what they earn in commercial revenue and prize money.

Simply, they want to ensure clubs do not spend beyond their means, and that financial competition among clubs is kept strong, rather than the richest owners injecting money to blow all rivals out of the water.

So if City’s owners were found to be injecting lump sums of cash into the club, this would be a breach of FFP.


All of the above was common knowledge, but the New York Times has now reported that a decision may be imminent, and a Champions League ban could be recommended.

According to the New York Times, the group UEFA set up to investigate the accusations met two weeks ago in Nyon to finalise conclusions, and that a recommendation could be announced this week.

The investigatory panel is led by former Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme, and he has final say on the submission.

Interestingly, the New York Times suggest the crux of the accusation is that “City gave misleading statements to resolve an earlier case, as well as false statements to licensing authorities in England,” rather than the more recent irregularities surrounding valuation of sponsorship agreements.


Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League threat explained
Liverpool were with them every step of the way.Source:Getty Images

It’s hard to say, as the panel can only recommend that City are banned from the Champions League. The final decision will be made by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body.

The ban would be implemented for at least one season. It could be set for next season (19/20), but with Champions League qualifiers starting in June, it is more likely any ban would start for the 20/21 campaign.

It would be devastating news for a club so desperate for European success


If a ban was brought in for next season, fifth-place Arsenal would get the fourth Champions League spot. Or if they were to win the Europa League, Manchester United would technically claim a Champions League spot.

If the ban was implemented for the 20/21 campaign, and City finished in the top four next season, the fifth-place side would get a Champions League spot.


City’s stance has been clear in recent months; the accusations are an “organised and clear” attempt to damage their reputation.

A City statement on Tuesday expressed concerns about the New York Times’ report, insisting they are co-operating with the investigation.

A snippet of that statement reads: “The implications are that either Manchester City’s good faith in the CFCB IC [UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body Investigatory Chamber - the investigating team] is misplaced or the CFCB IC process is being misrepresented by individuals intent on damaging the club’s reputation and its commercial interests. Or both.”

UEFA commented: “We do not comment on ongoing investigations regarding financial fair play matters.”

However, the initial ban is far from likely to be the end of it.

Almost certainly, and emphatically, City will appeal any punishment handed down. If City are punished, expect this to spark a huge legal battle and an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Sky Sports understands City have retained services of some of the world’s top sports lawyers.


Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League threat explained
Sergio Aguero has ridden every bump at City.Source:Getty Images

City were among eight teams to be given a £49m fine in 2014 for failing FFP rules. But the majority of City’s fine was suspended, and eventually not billed after City then met the operational and financial measures UEFA insisted upon.

Qatari-owned PSG, one of the eight in 2014, also evaded punishment recently when facing similar questions over sponsorship agreements. When their hearing ended up at the CAS in March, UEFA lawyers did not attend, and instead only written statements were sent.

But a Champions League ban would be unprecedented.

FFP is controversial, and pressure is on UEFA to apply FFP rules more vigorously on the biggest clubs. But the governing body insists FFP is working.


Three other bodies are currently investigating the club:

— FIFA’s investigation into City’s signing of youth players is almost complete. If wrongdoing is established, City are likely to be banned from signing players for at least one transfer window.

— The FA are looking into claims City made a banned £200,000 payment when they signed Jadon Sancho.

— The Premier League are investigating whether City have broken their rules on FFP, academy player recruitment and third-party ownership.


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