Manchester City’s appeal to the court of arbitration for sport against the referral of the club to Uefa’s financial fair play disciplinary body looks likely to fail because Uefa’s rules do not allow for an appeal against such a referral.
The Uefa rules governing the club financial control body (CFCB), which administers compliance with FFP, provide for clubs’ right to appeal against “a final decision of the CFCB”. City have not yet had a final decision, the case having at this stage been referred by the investigatory chamber (IC) to the adjudicatory chamber (AC).
In a ruling last year on an appeal by Milan against a two-year ban from European competition (which was overturned), Cas found that such a referral could not be appealed against.
The Cas panel, which included a Manchester-based lawyer, Mark Hovell, and a judge and a law professor based in Switzerland, found the right of appeal applies to a final decision made by the AC, which rules on the case and decides on any punishment.
Milan had appealed against the two-year ban imposed by the AC for alleged FFP breaches, and also the decision by the IC to refer the club rather than reach a settlement agreement.
“The panel finds that the applicable rules [governing the CFCB] do not provide for a separate appeal against the referral decision,” the judgment stated.
The panel concluded that as a referral by the IC does not involve any sanction or punishment, it is not a final decision which affects a club’s legal position. The judgment also noted that when the AC makes a final decision, it explicitly notifies a club in writing that it can appeal to Cas within 10 days. No such notification is given by the IC when it refers a club to the AC, because the right of appeal does not apply, the panel found.
“A systematic reading of the procedural rules indicates that [the right of appeal against a final decision of the CFCB] is only applicable to decisions of the CFCB adjudicatory chamber,” the judgment concluded.
City’s appeal is against the referral by the IC, made on 16 May. The IC did so following a two-month investigation of allegations, based on “leaked” internal City emails published by the German magazine Der Spiegel, that City misled the CFCB in 2014 about the source of its Abu Dhabi sponsorships.
The documents suggested that the club’s main sponsorship, by the Abu Dhabi state airline Etihad, and other sponsorships from companies based in the gulf country, had been funded by the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
City have vehemently denied the allegations and complained that the referral was made following “a basic lack of due process” by the IC’s chief investigator, Yves Leterme, which ignored “a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence”. That reaction suggests that this alleged failure of due process forms the basis of their appeal.
City have not commented on their appeal to Cas. Uefa has said it is not providing comment because the process is ongoing.