Manchester City have been referred to Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body Adjudicatory Chamber as the debate over whether they will face a Champions League ban for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations rumbles on.
The Premier League champions, who secured their fourth English title in eight years last weekend, are being accused of breaking rules concerning finances, but there is some confusion as to what they have actually done wrong.
The club have now gone public in their denial of any breaches, revealing they are “disappointed but regrettably not surprised” at Uefa’s decision to refer the matter to an independent judicial body.
But what exactly are Manchester City being investigated for? And how real is the possibility of a Champions League ban?
Which FFP rules are Man City said to have breached?
Financial Fair Play (FFP) was put in place to stop clubs exceeding a certain figure in annual deficit, protecting the clubs themselves from irresponsible investors and ensuring there is a level playing field in Uefa competitions by preventing financial doping.
The New York Times claims Manchester City are being accused of attempting to circumvent FFP regulations by masking injections of cash from a United Arab Emirates state-backed investment company. City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan is the brother of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates.
The club is also said to have agreed inflated sponsorship deals with the U.A.E.’s national airline Etihad, which appears in the stadium name and on the team’s kits. Sponsorship agreements with companies tied to a club’s owner are allowed, but only if the fees involved match the market rate.
Money from such sponsorships can then be spent on player transfers and other on-pitch costs, but accusations of inflated sponsorship fees make this problematic. City are accused of providing misleading information when it comes to those to amounts of money, failing to reveal the true value of the sponsorship agreements.
What action has Uefa taken so far?
After information was leaked – including club emails and documents – concerning City’s alleged breaches, Uefa launched an inquiry to determine whether the club had indeed broken the rules. City have always denied any wrongdoing.
The New York Times reports the investigatory chamber of UEFA’s financial control board finalised their conclusions in Switzerland two weeks ago. The leader of the panel is former prime minister of Belgium Yves Leterme. He has now referred the investigation to a separate adjudicatory chamber, and a decision on whether City will be banned from the Champions League for a year will be made in due course.
A Uefa statement read: “The Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) chief investigator, after having consulted with the other members of the independent investigatory chamber of the CFCB, has today decided to refer Manchester City FC to the CFCB adjudicatory chamber following the conclusion of his investigation.
“The CFCB investigatory chamber had opened an investigation into Manchester City FC on 7 March 2019 for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations that were made public in various media outlets.
“Uefa will not be making any further comment on the matter until a decision is announced by the CFCB adjudicatory chamber.”
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How have Man City responded?
In response to Uefa’s decision, Manchester City released a statement of their own in which they again completely denied any wrongdoing. The club also accused Uefa’s investigatory panel of leaking information to the media and said they remain confident of a positive outcome.
City’s statement read: “Manchester City Football Club is disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by the sudden announcement of the referral to be made by the CFCB IC Chief Investigator Yves Leterme.
“The leaks to media over the last week are indicative of the process that has been overseen by Mr. Leterme.
“Manchester City is entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body.
“The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC to the Chamber.
“The decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process and there remain significant unresolved matters raised by Manchester City FC as part of what the Club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed, and hostile process.”
When will Man City learn their Champions League fate?
Champions League glory has remained elusive since the current ownership took over at Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side were narrowly beaten by Tottenham Hotspur in a thrilling quarter-final this season.
If reports are to be believed, City could receive a one-year ban from the competition if they are found guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play rules. As of yet, however, it is unclear when a decision will be made on the club’s fate.
Qualifying rounds for next season’s Champions League begin in June. No English sides will have to qualify as the top four teams in the Premier League go straight into the group stages, as does the winner of the Europa League. Chelsea have already qualified via their domestic position, while Arsenal will be immediately entered into the group stage draw if they win the Europa League final.
Regardless of that, whether or not City will be competing in next season’s Champions League campaign could have an effect on the qualifying schedule as Uefa will need to know how many clubs are competing for qualification. With that in mind, Uefa may act fast to make a decision on City’s fate before next month.