Manchester City banned from next two Champions League

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Speculation has already begun over coach Pep Guardiola’s potential departure from the United Kingdom-based club [Carl Recine/Livepic/Action Images/Reuters]

European football’s governing body has banned English champions Manchester City from competing in any European club competition for the next two seasons and fined it 30 million euros ($32.5m).

City, owned by the United Arab Emirates and one of the world’s wealthiest football clubs, had been investigated by the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) over alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. The UEFA said in a statemen on Friday that the English giants had committed “serious breaches” of the rules.

The Premier League club swiftly said it intended to appeal the decision to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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City lashed out at the UEFA in a statement, casting doubt on the body’s impartiality and saying the “prejudicial process” was “flawed”. 

“Manchester City is disappointed but not surprised by today’s announcement by the UEFA Adjudicatory Chamber. 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,” read the club’s statement.

“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.


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“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 judgement 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 ruling, if upheld by the appeals court, would mean City would not be able to compete in next season’s Champions League should they again qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

UEFA’s FFP rules are intended to prevent clubs receiving unlimited amounts of money through inflated sponsorship deals with organisations related to the owners.

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”.

City is a UAE-owned megaclub that finished last season as the champion of the Premier League and the winner of the Carabao Cup and Football Association’s FA Cup.

Manchester City’s ultimate owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, an Emirati royal and deputy prime minister of the UAE, is one of the wealthiest people involved in world football, with The Telegraph estimating his individual net worth at $17bn. The club itself, with annual revenue in the past year of $635m, according to Deloitte, is the fifth-richest football club in the world.

With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgement as quickly as possible.

Manchester City statement

Its current squad, assembled and financed at the cost of more than $1bn, includes 10 players for whom City paid between $47m and $76m.

Ther case around breaching FFP rules centres on allegations that the club seriously misled financial regulators. Clubs are only allowed to spend on their squads in relation to the amount of income received from sponsors, in a bid to ensure a relatively even playing field.

But leaked documents appear to suggest City attempted to get around these rules by disguising cash payments from a UAE state-backed investment company through artificially inflated sponsorship deals with companies including the UAE airline, Etihad Airways.

“We are innocent until proven [otherwise], I’m sorry,” Pep Guardiola, City’s manager, told reporters when the allegations resurfaced last year.

While a ban from top-flight European football would be a severe blow to the club’s prestige, it would also cost City dearly in terms of lucrative fees received under global broadcasting deals. UEFA shared out $2.3bn in revenues among clubs that participated in 2018’s Champions League and Super Cup competitions. 

“If UEFA decide we did something wrong, OK, we’ll be banned, we’ll be punished or whatever they decide,” added Guardiola in May 2018.

City previously told Sky Sports News the allegations were a “clear and organised” attempt to smear the club’s reputation.

Guardiola is a highly accomplished coach and manager, who has made no secret of his ambition to win the European Champions League. Speculation has already mounted as to his future career direction if Manchester City are prevented from competing in the competition.

“That’s Pep” was the number-three trending term on Twitter in the United Kingdom on Friday evening, as social media users speculated as to when the Spaniard would announce his departure.


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