Manchester City's Champions League ban overturned by CAS

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Manchester City's Champions League ban overturned by CAS

Manchester City's ban from UEFA competitions has been overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), meaning the club will be able to com

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Manchester City’s ban from UEFA competitions has been overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), meaning the club will be able to compete in the Champions League next season.

The Premier League club, which has been owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group since a 2008 takeover, was banned from UEFA competitions for two years in Febuary 2020 for alleged “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations and failure to cooperate in UEFA investigations.

But the verdict by the three CAS judges in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday found that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB [UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body] were either not established or time-barred” and instead imposed a fine of €10 million ($11.3m) for “obstruction of the investigations.”

UEFA opened an investigation into City after leaked documents published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018 appeared to show that the club had deliberately misled UEFA regarding the value of sponsorship deals between 2012 and 2016.

The documents, likely obtained via the Portuguese whistleblower Rui Pinto, suggested that City had overstated the value of sponsorship deals with state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi in order to disguise the true source of the club’s funding and circumvent FFP rules.

But City, who are set to finish second in the Premier League this season, always denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the documents had been stolen and published without context.

On Monday, CAS found that “Manchester City did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions,” a ruling welcomed by the club as a “validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present.”

The ruling will have significant ramifications for City’s future finances but also for head coach Pep Guardiola and star players such as former Wolfsburg forward Kevin De Bruyne and England international Raheem Sterling, who will be able to compete in the Champions League next season. 

But it is also being seen as a considerable set back for UEFA, whose FFP regulations are designed to ensure that clubs only spend what they earn, limiting the influence of wealthy external backers and protecting clubs from potentially falling into debt.

“[It is] hard to see how UEFA’s FFP rules can survive this,” tweeted former England striker and current football pundit Gary Lineker. “In fact, can UEFA survive the ramifications?” 

In a statement, UEFA acknowledged that “there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions” but insisted that “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 could appeal the decision at Switzerland’s supreme court, but such federal appeals against CAS rulings are rarely successful.

mf/mds (SID/AFP)



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