LONDON – Manchester City have been barred from competing in European club soccer competitions for the next two seasons and fined 30 million euros ($32.5 million) for violations of club licensing and financial fair-play rules, European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, announced Friday.
If upheld on appeal, the ruling would ban the English-league powerhouse from competing in either the Champions League or Europe’s second-tier club competition, the Europa League, until 2022-2023.
After examining all the evidence, UEFA’s Adjudicatory Chamber found that Man City had “committed serious breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016.”
UEFA also accused the Manchester, England-based club of refusing to cooperate in the investigation.
“The Adjudicatory Chamber has imposed disciplinary measures on Manchester City Football Club, directing that it shall be excluded from participation in UEFA club competitions in the next two seasons (ie. the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons) and pay a fine of 30 million euros,” the governing body said.
Man City, however, may appeal the decision to the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“If Manchester City Football Club exercises that right, the full reasoned decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber will not be published prior to publication of the final award by the CAS,” UEFA said.
The Premier League club responded almost immediately to UEFA’s decision, issuing a statement in which it said it was “disappointed but not surprised by today’s announcement.”
“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,” Man City said.
“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,” the club said.
“The Club has formally complained to the UEFA Disciplinary body, a complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling,” Man City said. “Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA.”
“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,” it added.
UEFA’s decision has no bearing on Manchester City’s 2019-2020 season, with the club set to take on Real Madrid next week in the first leg of their round of 16 clash in the Champions League, European soccer’s premier annual club competition.
UEFA launched its investigation after German weekly magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018 published confidential e-mails sent by Man City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the brother of the United Arab Emirates’ ruler.
Those communications appeared to show that only a minority portion of the financing of the club’s jersey, stadium and academy had come directly from its main sponsor, UAE national airline Etihad Airways, and that the rest had come from a private equity company owned by Sheikh Mansour, Abu Dhabi United Group.
That alleged scheme would violate the financial fair-play rules that UEFA adopted in 2011 with the aim of preventing owners from making unlimited investments in their clubs.
Those rules are aimed at ensuring that the amount clubs spend on player transfers and player salaries is roughly equivalent to what they earn in commercial revenue and prize money.
Thanks to the financial backing of Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City have consistently been one of the world’s premier soccer clubs for more than a decade and have won four of the last eight Premier League titles.
The club, who in 1998 were relegated to the third tier of English soccer, has never won the Champions League but has consistently reached the knockout phase in recent years.