Geneva: Manchester City successfully overturned Monday their two-year ban from the Champions League. It was what many consider a surprising legal victory for the club. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld Manchester City’s appeal against the UEFA ban. However, CAS imposed a 10 million euro fine on the club for failing to cooperate with independent investigators.
Some UEFA allegations accusing City of breaking finance rules dating back several years were ‘time-barred’ the court said. CAS plans to publish a detailed written verdict within days.
The decision by the three judges clears Manchester City to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season. The case does not affect City’s place in this season’s competition, which resumes next month. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola must have very pleased with the outcome.
Man City’s legal win guarantees tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season. It also protects against players leaving to seek Champions League action with another club. Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester City ‘no matter what happens’ in the courts.
“The club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling. It is a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence it was able to present,” City said in a statement.
UEFA punished Man City in February for ‘serious breaches’ of finance monitoring rules and failing to cooperate with investigators. The allegations included that Manchester City misled UEFA over several years to meet financial integrity rules. City denied wrongdoing, and said it had ‘irrefutable evidence’ the claims were not true.
“The CAS award emphasised that most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the (UEFA club finance panel) were either not established or time-barred,” the court said. The club’s victory win will raise doubts about the future of the UEFAs Financial Fair Play programme, created in 2009.
Man City joins Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in defeating UEFA at CAS in the past two years.
UEFA-appointed investigators opened a case after leaked club emails and documents from City were published by German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’. The magazine published the documents in November 2018. They were likely obtained by a hacker from Portugal.
The published evidence appeared to show City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16. It hid the source of revenue linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi. City never disputed the documents were authentic, but argued the evidence was stolen and reported out of context.
UEFA could choose to challenge the CAS ruling at Switzerland’s Supreme Court. Federal appeals in CAS cases rarely succeed and only consider narrow grounds of legal procedure.