Will Manchester City be banned from the UEFA Champions League?

Citizens to face stiff punishment?

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Even after their historic domestic treble this season, there is a bit of a dark shadow hanging around the Etihad at the moment. That is because Manchester City are under the heavy scrutiny of a UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) Investigation. While the club is waiting to hear the outcome of the decision over the findings, there has been a lot of speculation flying around that they could be banned from the Champions League.

What are the allegations?

After a leak by German magazine Die Spiegel, it was suggested that Manchester City had been circumventing rules about financial dealings. One of them is that owner Sheikh Mansour allegedly put extra money on top of sponsorship deals to get more money into the club. The allegations are that they overvalued deals. There are rules in place about how much funds that owners can input into club operations.

Other allegations include them making a payment to Jadon Sancho’s agent when the player was underage. Players are not allowed to have agents until they turn 16 and it’s alleged that City paid a lump sum when Sancho was only 14.

Financial Fair Play Rules are designed to stop clubs spending more than they bring in to the club through certain avenues (within limits). More of the leaked documents by Die Spiegel suggest that officials at the club had wiped out almost a £10 million shortfall in the rules back in 2013.

Not the first time

Back in 2014 UEFA punished Manchester City for breach of Financial Fair Play Rules. The punishment on that occasion saw the club not being able to spend more than £49 million in the transfer market during that summer. They were also fined £49 million (of which £32 was suspended, meaning they got it back after meeting the terms of the settlement) and they were only able to name a 21-man squad for the Champions League for the following season as well. They also had to keep their wage bill the same as the prior season.

Why a heavy punishment may fit?

You do wonder if the previous charge against City will be on the minds of UEFA. It’s not clear how UEFA are going to move forward with this of course. But there is going to be pressure on the organisation to show something of a strong hand because these are their rules and the integrity of them is at stake.

If it turns out that there have been more financial regulations from the club and they are proven, then UEFA may well throw the book at them. It is UEFA’s chief FFP Investigator Yves Leterme who is really the one who has been suggesting that the punishment of banning Manchester City from the Champions League would be a fit for the alleged crimes.

What happens next?

UEFA have to look into this further. A special panel, which is the Adjudicatory Chamber is looking at this. It is interesting that when PSG were being investigated last year, it was the Adjudicatory Chamber that didn’t let the investigation go. They pursued an investigation after Leterme had suggested it be dropped.

Are City likely to be banned from the Champions League?

Nobody knows. It is a possibility though. The one thing that is not likely to happen is that if UEFA throw a ban at them, it won’t likely be for the 2019/20 competition. This investigation may have a way to go yet. UEFA have yet to let AC Milan know the outcome of a case against them which they were hearing in early April.

There’s a chance that the Committee will want to speak in person to City representative. Plus, you can be sure if there is a big penalty then club owner Sheikh Mansour and the board are going to fight tooth and nail to get it overturned. That is likely to lead to appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and that could take a fair while.

Basically, it could be well into next season before any decision on this case has been reached. It is worth noting though that Leterme has the final say.

Who would get their spot in the UCL if they are banned?

If Manchester City were to be booted out of the Champions League for a season, it is likely that UEFA will still keep four spots open for English teams. So in the preceding domestic season, it would likely mean that fifth spot in the Premier League opens up a place to the Champions League (assuming that City finish in the top four).

Why UEFA may not want to give City a CL ban

There is another side to this of course. UEFA aren’t particularly popular with the top clubs at the moment. That is because UEFA want to shake up the Champions League for the 2024-25 season, introducing a new format that will mean teams will have more games on their hands, which is likely to collide horribly with domestic scheduling.

They want to bring in four groups of eight teams in the group stage of the Champions League. That means that each team would have 14 group stage games to play. So that hasn’t gone down particularly well, especially with English Premier League clubs.

The thing about Manchester City is that they have a tremendous amount of appeal. They are one of the big teams, one of the giants of Europe that create and generate a lot of revenue and interest in UEFA’s flagship competition.

Therefore UEFA want the biggest teams with the most appeal in there. It’s good basically for their brand to sell tv rights across the world with. Even with all of this going on, when Champions League 2019/20 winner odds are released, City will be right up there at the head of the market no doubt.

Are City happy?

They don’t appear to be of course. They have gotten a little more focused and aggressive in their defence, citing it as being nothing more than a smear campaign against them. They are pretty insistent on their innocence and have started to attack Leterme by name. They will start planning forward of course.

City are 5/6 odds at Paddy Power to win the domestic treble again next season* (Betting Odds were taken from Paddy Power on May 26th, 2019 at 10:12 p.m.)

But this isn’t the only thing that the Citizens are being looked at for. The Premier League, the FA and FIFA are all looking into their own investigations over things like financial and transfer dealings that the club have made. Other things like transfer bans, such as the one Chelsea have just received have been touted.

They must be feeling like the whole world is against them at the moment.

How much would it cost City if they are banned?

A lot of money. UEFA dish out 2 billion Euros to clubs who have managed to qualify for the Champions League. That’s why it is such a huge lure for clubs, why they push so hard to qualify for a place through their domestic league campaigns. It is a financial windfall for teams.

So there is the financial aspect of City having to take a hit. The other is that how important the competition is to City. Even though they just won the treble on the domestic front, it’s not enough for them. They badly want that European crown and having to sit out a season because they have been found guilty of foul play, then that could hurt their reputation massively.

It could have a huge knock-on effect in terms for sponsorship deals as well. All in all, it would be a costly omission.

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