Manchester City are on the verge of being thrown out of next season’s Champions League for breaching FFP rules. Earlier this month, the club had appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over a sentence, even though it hasn’t been handed down yet. It is indicative of the muddy and confusing process that is UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.
Back in November 2018, a German newspaper, Der Spiegel, released a series of revelations about City based on emails they had received from Football Leaks. The revelations involved allegations that the club had used their sponsorship deal with Etihad to disguise investment from owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
One email suggested that only £8m of a deal worth £67.5million between City and Etihad in 2015-16 would come directly from the airline; the other £59.5m would come from Abu Dhabi United Group, which is Mansour’s own company that he uses to run the club.
This suggests that City had lied to UEFA because under Financial Fair Play rules there is a limit on how much clubs can spend. The rules are in place to stop clubs operating at unsustainable losses, stipulating that teams that report losses of more than £27m over a three-year period will face sanctions from the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).
By disguising Mansour’s investments as sponsorship income, City would have been able to spend that extra £59.5m a year on transfers without it affecting their expenditure.
UEFA have taken a dim view of City’s tactics, launching a formal investigation in March that only took two months to complete. The case is already with the CFCB for final adjudication.
This isn’t the first time City have been hauled in front of the governing body’s judicial arm. In 2014, the club were fined a then record £49m and allowed to name just 21 players in their Champions League squad for the 2014-15 campaign, with their transfer budget also being capped at £49m.
The CFCB’s chief investigator, Yves Leterme, has insisted that City will face ‘the heaviest punishment’, which could include them being thrown out of the Champions League.
Manchester City remain adamant that they have done nothing wrong, constantly attacking the FFP process. They have now appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have the case thrown out in a bid to head off the CFCB judgement.
Due to the lengthy appeals process, any suspension from the competition suffered by City will likely be for the 2020-2021 season. However, UEFA must throw the book at City to give FFP the credibility they believe it merits. They have already handed down bans to the likes of Galatasaray, so City should be no different.
What they tried to do was deceitful and a form of cheating. No club should be exempt of the rules all other clubs have to follow, so UEFA must make City an example and show it won’t be tolerated.