Manchester City are preparing for one of most important weeks in the club’s history, with their appeal against a two-year ban from European competition starting at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday.
With their reputation and Champions League place already on the line, the Citizens also know that an unfavourable outcome from the hearing could have a major adverse effect on their player recruitment and future squad planning.
While manager Pep Guardiola has already said he “trusts” the club and will stay next season whatever the outcome of the appeal, star midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has already admitted that would need to consider his future if the ban is upheld.
Manchester City return to English top flight action next week. Keep up to date with our latest betting tips and match previews on our Premier League predictions page.
Details of City’s ban
On 14 February, UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) banned Manchester City and fined the club 30m euros (£25m) after ruling it had committed “serious breaches” of the body’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.
The CFCB also said that City had failed to cooperate with the investigation into those breaches.
After the ban announcement, City immediately made public their intentions to appeal to the CAS, believing that the CFCB was not independent and that the ban was in part due to the volume of secret information, including internal emails, that was leaked to the media.
In the lead up to Monday’s appeal, the club have maintained that an independent judiciary will clear them of all wrong doing.
The club’s appeal will be heard by three CAS lawyers over three days in private video conference deliberations, though a verdict is not expected until later this summer.
Unless the club are successful in reducing or removing the ban completely, they will not be able to participate in Europe’s elite club competition in 2020/21, and will be prevented from competing UEFA’s Super Cup, if of course, they go on to win this season’s delayed Champions League.
Crucial decision for both City & UEFA
For European football’s governing body UEFA itself, the outcome of City’s appeal to the CAS will also prove to be a significant juncture for the organisation’s Financial Fair Play guidelines.
While City’s case is one that will be judged on its own merits, many observers believe that a successful Citizens appeal would bring the entire validity of UEFA’s FFP model into question.
Should City go unpunished for their alleged circumvention of the Financial Fair Play rules, UEFA’s entire framework for fiscal control across the continent could be undermined to the point of dissolution.
Origins of the investigation
UEFA’s investigation began back in November 2018, when German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of emails obtained by the Football Leaks organisation, which appeared to detail numerous breaches of FFP rules.
Amid the claims, it was alleged City had deliberately inflated the size of sponsorship deals to allow owner Sheikh Mansour to invest more money into the club than financial regulations permitted.
It was also alleged that ex-City boss Roberto Mancini was paid £1.75m more than the salary he was officially paid as manager with the club to act as a “consultant” to the Shiekh Mansour controlled Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club in Abu Dhabi.
In response to the leaks, City maintained that all of the information presented was obtained via illegal means and that it represented a “a clear and obvious attempt” to damage the club’s reputation.
City’s forceful reaction and impassioned denial of all wrong doing means that even a reduction in their Champions League suspension won’t be enough to clear their name alone. Only a complete removal of the ban will combat the growing belief that they “cheated the system”.
If UEFA’s ban is upheld, it will bring to an end a run of nine successive years in the Champions League, while City’s ban would also allow the team that finishes 5th in this season’s Premier League to replace them in next year’s competition.
City’s Manchester rivals United currently occupy that potentially lucrative position, though Wolves and Sheffield United look ready to fight for the spot between now and the end of the summer.
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