Uefa’s decision on Friday to ban Manchester City from the next two Champions League campaigns will most likely have far-reaching repercussions for the club.
On the surface, there is, of course, the fact that the Citizens will not be able to take part in the lucrative competition and will therefore miss out on the money they would earn.
Arguably more importantly, two years out of the top club football competition will make City – despite the deep pockets of their Emirati owners – less attractive to potential new signings.
City have already said that they would appeal the decision, which Europe’s soccer governing body said it had reached after finding the club guilty of contravening the financial fair play regulations.
Uefa said that the club had overstated “their sponsorship revenue in their accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”.
The association said that City had claimed that money they received from their owner was sponsorship, when in fact it was more of a cash injection.
City were also accused of not cooperating with the investigation, which was launched after documents received from a hacker were exposed in a German publication.
In a statement Friday, the club said they were “disappointed but not surprised by the announcement by the Uefa adjudicatory chamber”.
“Simply put, this is a case initiated by Uefa, prosecuted by Uefa and judged by Uefa. With this prejudicial process now over, the club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] at the earliest opportunity,” City said.
The CAS has often overturned – or at least partially overturned – decisions made by sporting bodies, so City can realistically hope that their two-year ban, which also covers the Europa League, is at least halved.
City will continue to play in this year’s Champions League. They face Real Madrid on February 26 in the Last 16. But, unless the ban is overturned, they will not be able to defend their title if they win their first Champions League trophy.
If they remain banned, the fourth English place in the competition would go to the team that finishes fifth in the English Premier League (EPL) this season, according to Uefa rules.
Uefa’s decision also leaves City manager Pep Guardiola’s position at the club in doubt. Even before Uefa’s announcement he had said that he could be fired should he fail to take the club far in this years’ Champions League.
Although he has signed a contract extension until next year, he has said that he could leave earlier under certain circumstances. And Guardiola will undoubtedly not be relishing the idea of not being involved in the Champions League for two seasons.
City are also being investigated by the EPL for the same infringements and could face another penalty, which could see them docked points. But that would, presumably, not be as serious as not being allowed to play in the Champions League.
Uefa’s announcement has been welcomed by the president of the Spanish La Liga, Javier Tebas, who has long accused clubs such as City and Paris Saint-Germain of breaking the financial fair play rules.
“Uefa is finally taking decisive action. Enforcing the rules of financial fair play and punishing financial doping is essential for the future of football. For years, we have been calling for severe action against City and Paris Saint-Germain. We finally have a good example of action and hope to see more. Better late than never,” Tebas tweeted.
City would not be the first club to be banned from a European competition.
English clubs were banned for several years after the Heysel Stadium disaster in Brussels, Belgium, in 1985, while Serbian club FK Crvena Zvezda were banned from playing in the 2014/15 Champions League after being found guilty of not paying players’ salaries.
AC Milan of Italy reached an agreement with Uefa last year that they would be banned from the Europa League over a breach of the financial fair play rules.
Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv were thrown out of the competition ahead of their final qualifying game in 2013/14 Champions League. Since then, Kharkiv have gone into administration, were pulled from the Ukrainian league and no longer exist.
The same fate would, of course, not befall City. However, should Uefa’s punishment stand, it would undoubtedly have severe repercussions for City and even English football as a whole.
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