Getting Away With It: A simple(ish) guide to City’s appeal against their Champions League ban

07/06/2020 Planet FPL

With City’s CAS hearing scheduled for next week it’s inevitable that the club will be in the spotlight again soon. There’s bound to be a lot of hot takes and media furore, so I thought I’d clear up what’s happened so far. I’m going to try and combine a timeline with some commonly asked questions from the events.

Most of the research I’ve summarised was done by Stefan Borson (@slbsn) and can be found in more detail in the two following articles:

2014 – City are found guilty of breaching FFP, fined £49m and given CL squad & transfer restrictions

Why were City found guilty?

UEFA had concluded that City made a loss of ~€180m in 2012 and 2013. This exceeded the €45m maximum loss allowed.

Weren’t City also investigated about sponsorships from companies in Abu Dhabi?

Yes, £118.7m of sponsorships to be specific. UEFA hired investigating consultants and they concluded the sponsoring companies; Etihad, Aabar and Etisalat; to be “related parties” to City because Sheikh Mansour was the chairman of the investment funds that owned them. This meant that the sponsorship deals had to pass a “fair value” test.

So did they pass the fair value test?

Yes. UEFA asked specialist sponsorship consultants to consider whether the value of the sponsorships was “fair value” and consultants concluded they were.

16/05/2014 (note the specific date) – City enter the Settlement Agreement with UEFA

What’s the Settlement Agreement?

It’s City accepting the punishment and allowing UEFA to monitor their accounts for the 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 reporting periods to make sure they don’t break the rules again.

So if City comply with the settlement agreement they’re in the clear for everything before 2016?

Nearly. UEFA have another rule that states if they find any breach of FFP up to 5 years after it occurred, they can investigate and punish it.

April 2017 – City complete and exit the Settlement Agreement

So City’s books for 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 are good?


And any breaches before then are over 5 years ago now so they’re clear of any breaches?


November 2018 – Der Spiegel publish an article claiming City and their sponsors manipulated contracts to circumvent FFP in 2013

What exactly did Der Spiegel accuse?

They claim that City misled UEFA by not revealing they had directed money to the club from Sheikh Mansour via the sponsors discussed earlier. Basically, the emails suggest the companies paid a portion of the sponsorship deals with Sheikh Mansour making up the rest.

The full article is here: Manchester City Exposed: Bending the Rules to the Tune of Millions

March 2019 – UEFA announce their Investigatory Chamber have opened an investigation into the allegations

16/05/2019 – UEFA announce they have referred the case to their Adjudicatory Chamber

What does this mean?

UEFA’s Investigatory Chamber have decided there is something in the allegations and have passed it to their Adjudicatory Chamber to decide whether they should be punished or not.

Why is that date important?

It is 5 years exactly to the day since UEFA and City entered into the Settlement Agreement but remember UEFA can only act if the breach happened within the last 5 years.

How did City react to this decision?

They appealed it at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) claiming that UEFA haven’t accused City of anything to do with the 2016/17 or 2017/18 reporting periods and they can’t touch anything before that because the Settlement Agreement covers everything before the 2016/17 reporting period. That is also backed up by the 5 year rule that states UEFA can’t touch anything that occurred before 2014.

So why did City lose the appeal?

CAS said City’s appeal was “inadmissible” at this stage because UEFA had not yet determined what punishment would be applied if they were found guilty.

February 2020 – UEFA announce that City’s Champions League ban

What exactly were City punished for this time then?

UEFA’s Adjudicatory Chamber said City had “overstated the sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016”.

Will UEFA just cut a deal with City?

No, it is past the point of City doing a deal with UEFA. UEFA won’t “backtrack” or “take a bung” from City. They have decided to punish them and thus City have had to take the decision to CAS again.

What will City’s arguments be this time ?

Much the same as at the appeal:

  1. UEFA cannot touch what happened over 5 years ago
  2. UEFA cannot touch anything before 2016/17 as it was covered by the 2014 Settlement Agreement
  3. UEFA cannot change their mind on the conditions of the Settlement Agreement and punish City because it would be “double jeopardy”

Another argument from City is that UEFA weren’t impartial during the initial investigation because some leaks showed they were already leaning towards a ban. CAS admitted this point was not “entirely without merit” when City appealed the referral decision.

Surely City’s arguments can’t all be technicalities though?

They’re not. The headline from City is that they have “irrefutable evidence” proving the allegations are false. City have continually defended the integrity of their accounts and thus have put the burden of proof on UEFA to prove there is something wrong.

What will UEFA’s arguments be then and how has it got this far if City’s main points are so simple?

UEFA haven’t made their arguments public but it is suspected they will argue that although City fulfilled the 2014 Settlement Agreement, they did not do so fairly. They also almost certainly announced the referral decision within 5 years of the Settlement Agreement so they can try and argue that they just made the 5 year cut-off. There must be some merit in these arguments for it to get this far.

June 2020 – Who is going to win?!

It is impossible to say. The proceedings are not being made public and a decision may take a few weeks so we may not know until August. The possible likely outcomes are:

  • City are found guilty and the 2 year ban is upheld
  • City are found guilty but argue the length of the ban is unfair when compared to other cases and it is reduced/suspended
  • City are cleared

One thing is for certain: it is an absolutely huge moment not just for City but for many other clubs as well.