Manchester City banned from next two Champions Leagues

Premier League club says it will appeal against UEFA's decision, which also hit it with a fine of $32.5m.

    Speculation has already begun over coach Pep Guardiola's potential departure from City [Carl Recine/Livepic/Action Images/Reuters]
    Speculation has already begun over coach Pep Guardiola's potential departure from City [Carl Recine/Livepic/Action Images/Reuters]

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

    The UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) said in a statement on Friday that City, owned by the United Arab Emirates and one of the world's wealthiest football clubs, had committed "serious breaches" of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules

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    Manchester City had been under investigation by UEFA  over alleged breaches of  the financial transparency rules.

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

    City lashed out at 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.

    "The club has formally complained to the UEFA Disciplinary body, a complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling. 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 Premier League champion and 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. 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.

    The case against City 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.

    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. 

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

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

    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.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies