Manchester City’s ban from European football competitions has been overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
City was originally punished by UEFA, European football’s governing body, for “serious breaches” of club licensing and Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations and was excluded from European competitions, including the Champions League, for two seasons.
But CAS ruled on Monday that the club “did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions” after City appealed the ruling in February.
It was decided, however, that City had failed to cooperate with UEFA authorities and an original fine of 30 million euros ($34 million) has been reduced to 10 million ($11.3 million).
“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by CAS, the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” said a statement from City.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”
FFP rules state clubs can only lose $32 million over three seasons, otherwise they will be liable to a fine or suspension.
City was bought by Abu Dhabi owners in 2008 and has since invested heavily in player transfers, transforming the club into one of the dominant forces in English football over the past decade.
The Champions League, the richest competition in European football, is the only major trophy to so far to elude manager Pep Guardiola, who took charge in 2016, during his time at City. The club has never won the European Cup
When the punishment was announced on February 14, City called the UEFA process “flawed” and lodged an appeal later in the month.
“UEFA takes note of the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce the sanction imposed on Manchester City FC by UEFA’s independent Club Financial Control Body for alleged breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations,” said a statement from the governing body.
“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the Club Financial Control Body’s (CFCB) conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations.
“Over the last few years, 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.”
FFP’s uncertain future
The decision has led to questions over UEFA’s FFP regulations which are designed to stop clubs overspending.
An investigation into Qatari-backed French side Paris Saint-Germain to determine whether the club had contravened FFP regulations was concluded last year when CAS upheld PSG’s appeal against the case.
“Hard to see how UEFA’s FFP rules can survive this,” tweeted former England international turned broadcaster Gary Lineker in response to the City verdict.
“In fact, can UEFA survive the ramifications?”
In this season’s competition, City faces Real Madrid next month in the knockout stages having defeated Los Blancos 2-1 in the first leg.
The winner of that tie will face Lyon or Juventus in the quarterfinals, from which point ties will be contested in Lisbon, Portugal, over only one leg.