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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Manchester City’s court appeal to UEFA ban shrouded in cloak of secrecy

Manchester City was punished in February for "serious breaches" of UEFA's FFP rules monitoring club finances and failing to cooperate with investigators.

By: AP | Geneva |
June 6, 2020 9:54:06 pm
Allegedly, Manchester City misled UEFA over several years to comply with FFP rules. (Source: File Photo)

A rare level of secrecy cloaks the court case opening Monday to decide if Manchester City will stay banned from European competitions — UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Super Cup until the 2022/23 season — for two seasons.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has scheduled three days at an undisclosed location for an appeal hearing by video conference link connecting lawyers in Switzerland and England.

The Lausanne-based court said on Friday both City and UEFA requested confidentiality for the case. Neither party commented to The Associated Press. The identities of the three CAS judges — selected by each side and the court — have also been protected in an intensely scrutinized legal fight.

The allegations include that City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, misled UEFA over several years to comply with financial integrity rules for clubs. The club was punished in February for “serious breaches” of UEFA’s FFP rules monitoring club finances and failing to cooperate with investigators.

EXPLAINED | £77 million loss, Pep Guardiola exit loom for Manchester City

The investigation was opened by UEFA-appointed experts after leaked club documents were reported in German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. The published evidence appeared to show City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hid the source of revenue.

City was also fined 30 million euros ($33.9 million) from its Champions League prize money, almost one-third of its UEFA payout for reaching the quarterfinals last season.

If City’s appeal fails, it faces losing hundreds of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money, some star players, and even manager Pep Guardiola during a two-year exile from world football’s most prized club competition.

Defeat for UEFA would undermine the Financial Fair Play (FFP) policy it says helps stabilize the soccer economy across 55 member nations.

READ | Meet Rui Pinto: The whistleblower who exposed Manchester City

Whatever the judges decide, City is still a contender to win this season’s Champions League. City leads Real Madrid 2-1 after the first leg of the round of 16 in Spain.

The CAS panel’s verdict is expected before the round of 16 resumes in August, five months after UEFA paused games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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