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Man City’s financial charges: what next for the Premier League champions?

Manchester City bosses have said the club are “surprised” by the financial charges brought against them by the Premier League. Following a four-year investigation, the club have been referred to an independent commission over a number of alleged breaches of league rules. 

The reigning champions have been charged with “breaking financial fair play rules around 100 times over a nine-year period”, said Kaveh Solhekol on Sky Sports. The alleged financial breaches cover a period from 2009-10 to 2017-18 “inclusive”, the Premier League confirmed. 

In a statement Man City said it “welcomes” the review by an independent commission to “impartially consider” the “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence” that exists in support of the club’s position. “As such we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all.”

‘Biggest moneymakers in world football’

The Premier League’s financial fair play (FFP) rules are “designed to ensure clubs pretty much spend what they earn”, Solhekol added. “You can get around that potentially by inflating how much you’re earning or hiding how much you are spending.”

According to the Premier League statement, City breached rules requiring them to provide “accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position”, Katie Falkingham reported on BBC Sport. This information “covered club revenue, which includes sponsorship income and operating costs”. Further alleged breaches “relate to rules requiring full details of manager remuneration” – from the 2009-10 to 2012-13 seasons, when Roberto Mancini was in charge – and “player remuneration” between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

Since 2008, City “have been bankrolled” by Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, said Chris Burton on Goal. The investigation extends “right across what has been a glittering era” for the club since the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group. 

City have become the “biggest moneymakers in world football”, said Rob Harris on Sky News. The club brought in “more than £600m in revenue” last year – “fuelled by sponsorships from Abu Dhabi”. Now sponsoring City has “significant value” as one of Europe’s most successful teams with stars like “scoring sensation” Erling Haaland and head coach Pep Guardiola in the dugout.

‘Day of reckoning’ 

In 2020 European football’s governing body Uefa ruled that City had committed “serious breaches” of FFP regulations between 2012 and 2016, said Falkingham on the BBC. However, a two-year ban from European competitions was “overturned” by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas). 

City “always knew there would be a day of reckoning” with the Premier League over their finances, said Simon Mullock in the Mirror. And they are “already primed for a battle” they believe will “finally clear them from allegations of cheating”.

It was “the timing” of the announcement rather than “the confirmation” of the allegations that “took City by surprise”, said Mullock. The “defiant message” is that the commission will give them the opportunity to “rid the club of the stench of suspicion” that has “lingered over them” in the two-and-a-half years since the Cas verdict. 

What happens next?

If proven, the financial rule breaches would be the “greatest offences” committed by a club in the history of the Premier League, said Paul MacInnes in The Guardian. The independent commission “could recommend that City be expelled from the competition, suspended or docked points if it finds the club guilty”.

Findings of “wrongdoing” would not only be “reputationally damaging” for Man City, said Sky News, but also for the UAE and its “showpiece sports – and soft power – investment project”. While they appealed to Cas in their case against Uefa, City are “unable to do that this time”, said Mitchell Wilks on Goal. The club will now await the outcome of the Premier League’s investigation.

The proceedings before the commission will be “confidential and heard in private”, the Premier League said in its statement. The commission’s “final” decision will be published on the Premier League’s website and the league will be “making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice”.

So “here we go again”, said Barney Ronay in The Guardian. Chapter two in the “slow-burn but undeniably gripping story of Manchester City and the case of the financial regulations”. Expect another “lawyered-up deep dive into undeclared payments, Football Leaks and the leftovers of a befuddled Uefa legal process.

“Make no mistake, though. This is serious, an array of new charges that threatens, if proven, to undermine the entire edifice of English football’s dominant power of the last decade, not to mention call into question the entire basis and motivation of the nation-state club ownership model.”

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