Manchester City said Monday they welcomed the “validation” of their position after their two-year European ban for violating Financial Fair Play regulations was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The 30 million Euros (34 million dollars) fine imposed by the ruling body UEFA in February was also reduced to 10 million Euros as CAS found that City had not overstated sponsorship revenue, as originally found.
City were banned and fined for “serious breaches” of its Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules in February. UEFA said City had overstated sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016 after it investigated financial documents leaked by German publication Der Spiegel in November 2018, and failed to cooperate with the investigation.
A three-day videoconference hearing was held last month, and CAS now ruled that City “did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions but did fail to cooperate with the UEFA authorities.”
As a result, the fine was maintained but reduced. The CAS said the full verdict would be published within the next days.
In a statement issued moments after the CAS decision was announced, City said it “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.”
The decision will be a huge relief to City, whose reputation had already been hit by the original ban.
City manager Pep Guardiola had already pledged to stay at the club no matter what but the ruling may increase the chances that the Spaniard signs an extension to his contract beyond 2021.
And the decision also means that City will continue to be able to attract the world’s best players, enticed by big salaries and the prospect of Champions League football again next season.
Former City defender Micah Richards said City can now start to plan for next season – and beyond – as they try to regain their Premier League crown from Liverpool.
“Two years would have been so damaging,” he told BBC Sport. “Pep Guardiola’s contract is up at the end of next season, Kevin de Bruyne is in the form of his life – the players in that side want to play Champions League football.
“It’s good it’s over with. From a players’ point of view, it’s difficult not knowing if you would be in it so to put it to bed is brilliant.”
City did not come out of the appeal blameless, with CAS agreeing that the club had obstructed investigations and “contravened Article 56 of the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations”, and that it “considered it appropriate to reduce UEFA’s initial fine by 2/3, ie to the amount of EUR 10 million”.
The ruling may also put at risk the future of Financial Fair Play, with former England striker Gary Lineker tweeting it was “a huge win” for City while adding it was “hard to see how UEFA’s FFP rules can survive this.”
UEFA, in a brief statement, said it “takes note” of the decision and would not comment further, but also said it would stick to its FFP principles.
“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the 5 year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations,” UEFA said.
“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 (European Club Association) remain committed to its principles.”