Football News

Man City back in Champions League as two-year ban is overturned on appeal

By Harry Edwards

Man City ban overturned: Guardiola's side back in Champions League

Published: 10:30, 13 July 2020

Manchester City will play in the Champions League next season after their two-year European football ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The 2018/19 Premier League champions were initially banned from Uefa club competitions for two years in February for committing “serious breaches” of licensing and financial fair play (FFP) regulations, with an additional fine of €30 million.

The serious breaches are alleged to have taken place between 2012 and 2016, a period during which Uefa accused the club of overstating their sponsorship revenue in accounts.

At the time, Man City were quick to respond, confirming their intention to appeal the decision through CAS – taking similar measures to Chelsea after Fifa banned them from registering players for two transfer windows, which saw the Blues’ punihsment reduced to just one.

The CAS met to discuss Man City’s appeal over three days in June and, just over a month later, have now announced their decision to overturn the ban. The CAS found that Man City did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions but did fail to cooperate with the Uefa authorities, and will have to pay a fine of €10m.

A statement released by the CAS announcing the decision read: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between Manchester City Football Club and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

“The case concerns an appeal filed by Manchester City FC (MCFC) against the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) dated 14 February 2020 in which it was deemed to have contravened UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations and sanctioned with exclusion from participation in UEFA club competitions in the next two seasons and ordered to pay a fine of EUR 30 million.

“The Panel of arbitrators in charge of the matter, composed of Mr Rui Botica Santos (Portugal), President, Prof. Ulrich Haas (Germany) and Mr Andrew McDougall QC (France), conducted a hearing with the parties, their legal representatives, witnesses and experts on 8, 9 and 10 June 2020.

“Following the hearing, the CAS Panel deliberated and concluded that the decision issued on 14 February 2020 by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB should be set aside and replaced by the following:

“a.) MCFC has contravened Article 56 of the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations.

“b.) MCFC shall pay a fine of EUR 10,000,000 to the UEFA, within 30 days as from the date of issuance of the arbitral award.

“The CAS award emphasized 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, i.e. to the amount of EUR 10 million.

“The final award with reasons will be published on the CAS website in a few days.”

Shortly after the decision was revealed, Man City released an official statement, welcoming the CAS’s result having been unhappy with Uefa’s investigation, leading them to search for an “impartial judgment”.

It 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.”

Uefa also released a statement of their own, reading: “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 5 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.”

What does the CAS’s decision mean for football?

When the ban was first announced in February, there were many potential implications for Man City and the rest of the Premier League. Some of the club’s biggest stars were being linked with a move away in the summer, with some perhaps intent on continuing in the Champions League elsewhere while operating at their peak.

But with Champions League football secured, thanks to a confirmed second-place finish, Man City are unlikely to lose any more of their bigger names – having seen Leroy Sane join Bayern Munich recently, albeit unrelated to the ban.

Man City‘s Premier League rivals would have also been paying close attention to the decision, with Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester embroiled in a tight battle for a Champions League place. When Man City were banned, fifth would have been enough for a place in Europe’s elite competition and all three would have been confident of qualification. But now, the fight will continue with just two points separating third-placed Chelsea and Man Utd in fifth – though the Red Devils have a game in hand.

The overturn also has implications on the race for Europa League football, with only fifth and sixth guaranteed a spot as things stand. Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur are all currently fighting for those spots.