Manchester City’s investigation by UEFA over Financial Fair Play was back in the news on Wednesday.
As a verdict is awaited from UEFA’s adjudicatory chamber to determine whether the Blues are guilty and what punishment they will receive, a report from the Associated Press claimed that the club have asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to throw the case out before any decisions are announced, “challenging the legitimacy and haste of the investigation”.
City have refused to comment, and have made few statements over the course of the investigation; last month they reacted to newspaper reports that a season-long ban for the Champions League had been recommended to the adjudicatory chamber by announcing that they were “disappointed but regrettably not surprised by the sudden announcement”, adding: “The leaks to media over the last week are indicative of the process that has been overseen by Mr [chief invstigator Yves] Leterme.”
Going to CAS before a decision has been made is an unusual step, but may not mean anything about how they expect the UEFA adjudicatory chamber to rule.
“CAS is arbitration so [normally] there has to have been a ruling made before CAS get involved, so it does seem a pre-emptive strike,” said Kieran Maguire, a football finance expert at the University of Liverpool.
“In a sense, it’s a defensive move from City – and it’s perfectly valid. They feel that they have complied with all the relevant rules and that they’ve been picked on by certain clubs.
“The head of La Liga has been very vocal and the head of UEFA seems to want to pick a fight, with City and PSG easy targets. Going to CAS suggests City are getting all their ducks in a row.
“The application makes sense from a City point of view and also sends a signal to UEFA that they mean business.”
UEFA are fast running out of time to try to impose sanctions on the Blues in time for next season. The draw for the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League takes place on June 11, with the first qualifying round on July 9 and there is no obvious answer to who a vacant spot in the competition would go to.
Whether CAS would side with City or not, any involvement from them at this stage of proceedings makes a significant delay to any outcome more likely – especially if City have contested the “haste of the investigation” as reported.
“A year has been mooted [as a ban] and that would be a very heavy punishment and very unlikely for 2019/20 because it is so close to the start of the season,” said Maguire.
Spurs and Liverpool both made close to £100m last season from the Champions League. For an organisation to have to write off that with six to eight weeks notice is too harsh, and City have also been making decisions with their retained list and contracts in this time.
“In any case you have to collate all of the information and this would be a landmark ruling [from CAS]. If [the verdict] was for 2020/21, UEFA would feel more comfortable and City would be able to use that time to get their legal team to put forward their case.”