UEFA’s team of investigators have been taking a look at the financial situation at Manchester City, and they do not like what they see.
Indeed, a theory has been tabled that the club’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) breaches are so stark that they could be banned from entering next season’s Champions League.
The chief investigator, former Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme, will have the final say, and while his decision is not known it is rumoured that many of his colleagues at UEFA have suggested that Pep Guardiola’s side are given a year’s ban from the competition in light of their breaches.
Leterme heads the investigatory arm of the independent financial control board CFCB IC, and they have been looking into evidence provided by leaks from the German newspaper Der Spiegel last year.
In their defence, City have bounced back defiantly and categorically deny any wrongdoing.
“The CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC to the chamber,” their statement read.
“The decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process and there remain significant unresolved matters raised by Manchester City FC as part of what the club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed, and hostile process.”
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The main accusation being levelled at Manchester City is that they had inflated the value of a multi-million pound sponsorship deal as a way of getting around FFP regulations.
That was based on the evidence provided by Der Spiegel, with Leterme and his team taking up the reins shortly after.
No official comment has been made by UEFA during the investigation, and City have always maintained their innocence, but the New York Times has reported this week that the Champions League ban could be enforced if the rules are upheld.
The newspaper claims that City chiefs ‘misled’ UEFA in hiding its true transfer spending, and that the investigators are ‘expected to recommend’ the ban.
They continued by writing that:
“If UEFA is unable to establish a case and enforce a punishment, it risks seeing its system of financial rules — in place since 2011, and designed to impose a measure of financial fairness within the European soccer economy — rendered meaningless.
“Several officials on the financial control bodies also have said privately that their reputations could be harmed if their work is seen to be toothless.”
Leterme’s decision on the matter is expected by the end of the week, and at that point UEFA’s adjudicatory chamber has to decide whether to uphold his verdict or not.
However, here’s the key point: any ban would NOT be imposed for the 2019/20 Champions League, because an appeal from Man City would take longer to be heard than August’s entry dates.
Of course, it’s not the first time that City have been in hot water with the sport’s governing bodies; they were fined £49 million back in 2014 for failing to comply with FFP measures.
And the bad news keeps on coming for the Premier League champions, who could be facing a transfer ban with the holy trinity of the FA, the Premier League and FIFA all investigating alleged wrongdoings in the transfer market relating to their signing of players aged under 21.