Man City banned from Europe’s top tournament

LONDON • Manchester City have been banned from European competition for the next two seasons and fined €30 million (S$45.2 million) by Uefa after an investigation into the club’s breaking of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

The European football governing body announced in a statement on Friday that City had committed “serious breaches” of the rules, designed to prevent clubs receiving unlimited amounts of money through inflated sponsorship deals with organisations related to the owners.

The Premier League club swiftly said on their website that they will appeal against the decision to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The ruling, if upheld, would mean Pep Guardiola’s side would not be able to compete in the 2020-2021 Champions League should they again qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

They would also be banned from European competition in the 2021-2022 season.

The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League, and City are currently second – should the ban stand, then the fifth-placed team, now Sheffield United, would take their spot.

The shock punishment, the most significant Uefa has handed out in the decade since it created its FFP regulations in 2009, will cost City an estimated £170 million (S$308 million) in lost Champions League revenue.

The Adjudicatory Chamber of Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body said City had broken the rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016” and added that the club “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.

It is not the first time City have fallen foul of FFP regulations, having been fined €60 million and seeing their Champions League squad reduced in May 2014.

In March last year, the Qatar-owned PSG won a legal battle against Uefa after the governing body tried to reopen its investigation into the French club’s spending on transfer fees and wages.

Uefa opened an investigation into City that month after the publication of “Football Leaks” documents led to allegations that the club’s Abu Dhabi owners had inflated sponsorship agreements to comply with FFP requirements.

It was reported that City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi ruling family and the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, was funding most of the huge £67.5 million annual sponsorship of the City shirt, stadium and academy by his country’s airline, Etihad.

It was said in the leaked documents that only £8 million of that sponsorship in 2015-2016 was funded directly by Etihad, therefore falling foul of FFP rules.

The Abu Dhabi United Group, the investment vehicle owned by Sheikh Mansour, has been the majority owner of the City Football Group since 2008, with a stake of around 77 per cent.

The City Football Group includes the Manchester club and owns or part-owns New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, Girona FC in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu FC in China.

City, which have denied any wrongdoing, said in a strongly worded response that they will fight the decision.

“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,” the club said.

City may still be able to delay a ban for next season if the appeal is not resolved before the 2020-2021 competition begins.

They face Real Madrid later this month in the first leg of the last 16 of this season’s Champions League, in which the two-season ban is not yet applicable.

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