With the case likely to have a significant bearing on the club in the short-term and both FFP, and law being one of the most complicated and detailed of areas, in this article we aim to provide you with everything you need to know ahead of “Manchester City FC v UEFA”.
What is Financial Fair Play (FFP)?
According to UEFA, FFP is “about improving the overall financial health of European club football”, or as described by the former UEFA president Michael Platini back in 2010, as preventing “financial doping.” In essence, FFP is meant to stop clubs having monetary problems in the future by preventing how much money a club can spend in the short-term. Over the course of three years, clubs shouldn’t be spending more than they make, though there are some exceptions such as infrastructure, new facilities etc. This is all monitored by UEFA’s ‘Club Financial Control Body’ (CFCB).
What have Manchester City supposedly done wrong?
Basically, UEFA claim that over a four-year period, Sheikh Mansour had put additional funds into the club by covering them up as sponsorship deals from Abu Dhabi. According to a statement by UEFA back in February, Manchester City “committed serious breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations.” These charges came after an investigation by UEFA’s CFCB found that Manchester City were supposedly “overstating its sponsorship revenue” between 2012 and 2016.
Further to this charge, Manchester City were also charged with failing to cooperate with the investigation – an investigation that City claimed to be “flawed” and “consistently leaked.”
Has this happened before?
Yes. Not just have clubs taken UEFA to CAS for FFP related matters in the past, but Manchester City themselves have already been punished for breaking these regulations. Back in 2014, the Blues were one of several teams including Paris Saint-Germain charged with failing to comply with FFP. Manchester City accepted a £49 million fine and a reduced squad of 21 in the competition for the 2014/15 season.
Clubs have also been in Manchester City’s position before. One example being AC Milan in 2019, who had an initial two-year ban from European football halved to just one year, after being charged with an FFP related matter spanning between 2016 and 2018.
What is Manchester City’s defence?
We don’t actually know what Manchester City’s argument will be, and we are also unaware of the “irrefutable evidence” the club claim to have in an attempt to prove their innocence. In an article by the Athletic back in April, it was suggested Manchester City’s defence could also include some “procedural complaints” and also question the legality of some of UEFA’s evidence, given much of it is said to have come from the rather damning “football leaks” reports.
Further to this, the argument of UEFA’s process being “flawed” is likely to return. The club claimed this back in November and were so fixated on the argument they even attempted to take UEFA to CAS before a judgement had been reached. This was rejected by the Swiss court.
An article by the Financial Times this weekend confirmed reports that the club had hired one of Britain’s top barristers, David Pannick QC, who the Mail claimed was costing £20,000-a-day. He will also be joined by Paul Harris QC, with each lawyer said to be acting on different elements of the defence. The two men will be joined by personnel from heavyweight law firms Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Kellerhals Carrard.
What will the CAS process entail?
The hearing itself is likely to be very similar to normal proceedings, though anybody who saw the timetable released by CAS will have noticed this is a three-day hearing – rather lengthy for a CAS hearing, with most taking just a day.
Something we do know is that it is unlikely the case will be a full, in-person hearing because of the current Coronavirus pandemic. It is unconfirmed whether it will be in-person, via video link or a mix of both. Further to this, the Manchester Evening News reported that neither party requested for the appeal to be public, meaning the media will be unaware of the events as they occur.
After the three days, the court panel’s deliberation will start, eventually leading to the publication of an overall outcome and written reasons for coming to this conclusion.
Interestingly, Associated Press are reporting that a ‘rare level of secrecy‘ clouds the case because the location for a hearing via video link is undisclosed and the three CAS judges’ identities remain anonymous. This is maybe not surprising given the magnitude of the case, with a Manchester City win potentially sparking the end to UEFA’s FFP in its current form.
When will we know the outcome?
Although we don’t have an exact date for when a decision will be announced, it could take anything from a matter of weeks to a couple of months. A three-day hearing is lengthy for CAS and they are likely to have a lot evidence to look over. The Mail recently reported that “CAS sources say a final decision on City’s Champions League fate could take up to two months to be delivered.” This would mean a decision could come in August, the month provisionally set for the resumption of this season’s Champions League.
If there is any consensus between the two sides, it is that both want the situation resolved before the start of the 2020/2021 campaign, to avoid any further disruptions or complications.
What if the charge is upheld?
If UEFA’s decision were to stand, the club are likely to face a number of further repercussions.
Firstly, the financial impact of not having Champions League football would be massive. According to a report by Forbes, a ban would see the club miss out on $77 million – equating to 11% of the club’s total revenue. That 11% devaluation suggested by Forbes would see Manchester City’s value drop by $295 million. Their current estimated value is $2.28 billion.
Secondly, if Manchester City’s ban were to be upheld, they would likely face sanctions from the Premier League. Although the league’s FFP rules differ to that of UEFA’s, depending on the appeal’s outcome, there are a few areas in which Manchester City could be charged. A punishment as drastic as being stripped of a league title is most unlikely, but a points deduction would be a possibility.
Another issue that could arise if the club fail to overturn the 24-month ban is certain players may want to leave the club, mainly because they want to play in Europe’s premier competition. Although reports suggest Pep Guardiola’s future wouldn’t hinge on the outcome, it has already come to light some stars would reconsider their future. The most recent of these was Kevin De Bruyne, whose national team manager Roberto Martinez claimed the midfielder would “take into consideration if there’s a ban in the Champions League”, when it came to deciding on his future at the club.
Player recruitment could also suffer as a result of having no European football, with the prospect of not playing in the competition likely to put off some potential signings, in a summer when many reported that the club were planning a significant overhaul of their playing squad.