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February 14, 20205min790

Manchester City have been banned from European club competition for the next two seasons after being found to have committed “serious breaches” of Uefa’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations.

The reigning Premier League champions have also been fined 30m euros (£25m).

The decision is subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Manchester City said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the announcement and will appeal.

The severity of the ban from both of Uefa’s elite club competitions, and the scale of the fine, reflects how seriously Uefa’s FFP compliance bodies consider the club to have breached the rules and code of conduct.

City were found guilty by Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) of having falsely inflated their sponsorship revenues, when they made submissions for the FFP compliance process. The guilty finding follows an investigation sparked by the publication of “leaked” emails and documents by the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018.

The “leaked” emails and documents appeared to show that City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, was mostly funding the huge, £67.5m annual sponsorship of the City shirt, stadium and academy by his country’s airline, Etihad. One of the leaked emails suggested that only £8m of that sponsorship in 2015-16 was funded directly by Etihad, and the rest was coming from Mansour’s own company vehicle for the ownership of City, the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Manchester City said in a statement that they were “disappointed by not surprised” by the decision and added that they would appeal the ban and fine “at the earliest opportunity”.

“The club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position,” the statement read.

“In December 2018, the Uefa Chief Investigator publicly previewed the outcome and sanction he intended to be delivered to Manchester City, before any investigation had even begun. The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked Uefa process he oversaw has meant that there was little doubt in the result that he would deliver. The club has formally complained to the Uefa Disciplinary body, a complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling.

Simply put, this is a case initiated by Uefa, prosecuted by Uefa and judged by Uefa. With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity.

Uefa had said in its statement: “The Adjudicatory Chamber, having considered all the evidence, has found that Manchester City committed serious breaches of the Uefa Financial Fair Play Regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016.

“The Adjudicatory Chamber has also found that in breach of the regulations the club failed to cooperate in the investigation of this case by the CFCB.”

FFP, introduced in 2011 with the aim of encouraging football clubs across Europe not to overspend on players’ wages, restricts the amount club owners can put in to cover losses. Sponsorships boost revenues and therefore the amount that clubs have to spend under FFP, so the perception that Mansour himself was in fact funding the Etihad deal led to the serious allegation that City had deceived Uefa’s CFCB, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with FFP.

City have vehemently denied wrongdoing throughout, and denounced the Spiegel coverage as based on “leaked or stolen” materials taken out of context. Spiegel anonymised their source as “John”, who was quoted saying that he had not hacked computers to obtain the emails.

 

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