Manchester City face one-season Champions League ban
Premier League champions investigated by Uefa over alleged breach of Financial Fair Play rules
The odds of Manchester City being banned from the Champions League for alleged breaches of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules are growing, according to reports.
The Times says that officials investigating the case “will push for a suspension of one season” if they can prove a story first covered in German magazine Der Spiegel that a £59.5m sponsorship deal in 2015 was paid directly by the club’s owners, the Abu Dhabi United Group, instead of from Etihad Airways.
The Times reports that Uefa’s financial control body, headed by former Belgium prime minister Yves Leterme, met earlier this month to wrap up its investigation, and are set to recommend a Champions League ban of at least one season.
Uefa will decide in the coming weeks whether to act on the recommendation, but if it does ban the Sky Blues from the Champions League for a season, the punishment would be “unlikely” to come into effect in time for the 2019-20 campaign.
City would contest any ban, probably taking their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - and that appeal would take several months.
The Times predicts that City, who have always protested their innocence, “would mount an aggressive response to any effort to bar the club from the Champions League”.
Earlier this year, City issued a statement in response to the investigation, declaring: “The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false. The club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”
However, the club have previous when it comes to transgressing Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules. The Guardian reported in 2014 that City were fined £49m and given a transfer cap for breaching spending regulations.
The Times says that this time around, Uefa’s investigators are pressing for a “strong punishment” to show that no club, whatever their size and prestige, is above the law.
Despite the possibility of a ban, the back-to-back Premier League champions are plotting to strengthen their squad over the summer with what the Daily Mail describes as a £200m spree.
Manager Pep Guardiola is particularly keen to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodri and Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, and the Spaniard is also said to be tracking Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic and teenage Benfica sensation Joao Felix.