London: Manchester City’s appeal against a two-year ban from European competition will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from Monday in a case of wide-reaching repercussions.
City are accused of overstating sponsorship revenue to hide that they had not complied with Uefa’s financial fair play (FFP) rules between 2012 and 2016 and were also handed a €30 million (Dh124.30 million) fine.
Uefa’s case was prompted when German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018 that claimed to show how City manufactured extra sponsorship revenue, going against Uefa regulations.
City’s fortunes have been transformed since their takeover and substantial investment by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, has grown the club from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years. The flourishing City Football Group now has a number of globally recognised clubs in its portfolio, such as New York City FC in the MLS, Melbourne City in Australia, and other franchises across the globe, including Japan and Italy.
This season, City are still in the hunt for an elusive Champions League title and will be permitted to compete in the remainder of the 2019/20 edition when it returns in August, no matter the outcome of the appeal. The competition was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
But a two-season ban from the competition would represent a huge blow to the club’s swaying power and hope of hanging onto manager Pep Guardiola and key players such as Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
“Two years would be long. One year is something I might be able to cope with,” De Bruyne told Het Laatste Nieuws last month.
City banked €93 million from prize money and television rights alone by reaching the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League and have steadfastly refuted Uefa’s allegations.
“Based on our experience and our perception, this seems to be less about justice and more about politics,” said Ferran Soriano, CEO of City Football Group.
Premier League impact
The hearing will be held by videoconference due to coronavirus restrictions from Monday to Wednesday.
If no verdict is immediately announced after the hearing, the decision “could be made during the month of July”, said Matthieu Reeb, secretary general of CAS.
Even if City’s appeal to CAS fails, the English champions could present a further appeal before the Swiss Federal Court.
A delayed outcome would leave a cloud hanging over the return of the Premier League season.
City seem certain to secure Champions League qualification on the field with a 12-point lead over fifth-placed Manchester United.
If they are excluded, fifth would be good enough for the riches of next season’s Champions League, which are all the more valuable during the economic crisis caused by coronavirus.
Just six points separate United from Crystal Palace in 11th leaving plenty to play for in the final nine games of the season once the Premier League restarts on June 17.