City ban quashed

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 14 Jul 2020

Manchester City are free to play Champions League football next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday lifted a two-season ban from European competitions imposed by Uefa.

An initial fine of 30 million euros (HK$263.5 million) was also reduced to 10 million euros on appeal.

City were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play regulations between 2012 and 2016.

European football's governing body Uefa launched an investigation after German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018.

However, CAS found that "most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Uefa Club Financial Control Body were either not established or time-barred."

Uefa recognized in a statement that many of the allegations fell outside the five-year time limit in its own regulations.

"Uefa notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the Uefa regulations," it said.

City welcomed the decision, which will have huge ramifications for the club's finances and potentially the future of manager Pep Guardiola and star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

The club made 93 million euros from Uefa prize money and TV rights alone from last season's Champions League, with gate receipts and extra sponsorship revenue from the competition added to that tally.

City said it welcomed the ruling as "a validation of the club's position and the body of evidence that it was able to present."

Since Sheikh Mansour's takeover 12 years ago, City's fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies.

More silverware could come before the end of the season as Guardiola's side face Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday before restarting their Champions League campaign in August. They hold a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last-16 tie.

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