On Friday, UEFA delivered its verdict on City “financial irregularities” by banning the club for two seasons from all European competitions. The decision was met by the club not with surprise, but with disappointment and an intimation that the fight is a long way from being over.
City have continually fought their corner ever since the allegations first came to light in November 2018, when German outlet Der Spiegel presented ‘evidence’ of City’s attempts to comply with FFP by inflating sponsorship deals and hiding it from UEFA auditors. Hacked emails claimed to show the club knew about this. The blues hierarchy have maintained their innocence throughout the whole process and say they have complied in full with UEFA’s FFP rules.
UEFA have dismissed the club’s claims and have issued a two season ban on the blues from all European competitions, which will take effect from next season, barring any successful appeal. The bleus are expected to appeal and, judging from their statement yesterday, it looks like the City owners are preparing for a larger battle with Europe’s governing body.
The first part of the club statement shows that City were already prepared for this ruling. “The Club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position.” Basically saying ‘we knew what UEFA would do so we are ready to take this to an impartial body to get a fair hearing.’ Interestingly, it doesn’t state who in this instance.
“In December 2018, the UEFA Chief Investigator publicly previewed the outcome and sanction he intended to be delivered to Manchester City, before any investigation had even begun. The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked UEFA process he oversaw has meant that there was little doubt in the result that he would deliver.” This is a clear strike at Yves Leterme, who had allegedly recommended City be banned after just two months of the leaks and that there was no doubt in the club’s mind that UEFA would ultimately deliver a Europe wide ban on the club.
“Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA.” Basically saying that UEFA have not been impartial. In law, and impartial judge and an impartial jury listen to evidence and make a decision on that evidence, however the club are clearly saying UEFA have been accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury and questioning how anyone can make an impartial decision when there is such clear and obvious bias?
“With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity.” Key words here are ‘prejudicial process,’ ‘impartial judgment’ and ‘first instance.’
City are accusing UEFA of impartiality and no doubt have the power and resources to prove it. As they have already stated, the case was initiated, prosecuted and judged by UEFA, but now this ruling has been made, the gloves can finally come off City’s hands. The club feel there has been prejudice against City since ADUG took over, which shows given the speed at which UEFA brought in the FFP rules very soon after City’s takeover by ADUG. And remember, it was former UEFA head Michel Platini who spoke about ‘one club, who had suddenly become very rich,’ who oversaw the implementation of FFP. The same Platini who was found guilty of corruption and banned from the sport until 2023. The same Platini who said the 1998 World Cup was fixed so France and Brazil would meet in the final and the same Platini who was investigated over the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. This is the former head of the organisation accusing City!
But it’s the last words that indicate City are in for a longer battle. “The first instance.” City will follow the guidelines and take it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where it is possible the ban will be reduced or even overturned entirely. And if that isn’t successful, City will more than likely take legal action against UEFA, and it has been mentioned that Europe’s governing body want to avoid a legal challenge by the blues, as it is one they will likely lose.
Not only would City cite UEFA as being impartial, but will no doubt question the use of illegally obtained evidence by means of hacking into the club’s system, particularly when Liverpool have admitted hacking into City’s scouting system, yet nothing has been done about that. Is it now one rule for one and one for the other?
As it stands, City are banned from next season, but there’s still a long way to go in this story, and we shouldn’t be putting the passports back in the drawer just yet.
Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.