By Kasim Mahmood, MSc Middle East Politics
Manchester City have been banned from participating in the Champions league for the next two years and fined £25 million, pending the success of City’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration. An investigation launched by UEFAs club financial control body (CFCB) found City guilty of both inflating the value of their sponsorship revenue in order to comply with the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, alongside failing to cooperate with the investigation. These regulations were introduced in 2011 to restrict the amount club owners could put into teams. If the process for the appeal continues into the start of the 2020-21 season then Manchester City will be able to compete in the tournament and if the ban is upheld then the ban will start in 2021-2022.
News of City’s apparent nefarious dealings began to surface in late 2018 by German newspaper Der Spiegel, who published ‘leaked’ documents proving City had misled the European football’s governing body through the inflated vale of the sponsorship deal. This then alerted UEFA who led a subsequent investigation and found City guilty on two accounts.
City vigorously protested stating the process was ‘prejudicial’ and that they will immediately appeal to the court of arbitration for sport. Ferran Soriano who is the chief executive responded to the clubs ban five days after it was announced, stating the allegations were simply untrue and were politically motivated. He stated the owner did not put money into the club that was not properly declared, and City did cooperate with the investigation.
This could have serious ramifications for the Manchester City team in the foreseeable future. The lack of Champions League football for 2 years could seriously impede City’s ability to retain some of their biggest star names. For a team that has won major trophies domestically, the missing crown jewel in the Champions league trophy appears to be slipping away.
Many of their star players may harbour the affinity to winning the Champions League trophy. Sergio Aguero is already 31 and De Bruyne is 29, what is to stop them from leaving City and utilising the better years of their careers pursuing the one trophy that has evaded them thus far? Even the argument that City can still entice world class players through their high wages will be challenged by the Champions League ban. Missing out on this prestigious trophy will mean City will lose out on an estimated €200m in prize money.
Questions arising on the future of Guardiola seem to have been slightly alleviated with him stating his love for the club will keep him at City next season. One thing for certain is the support from City fans remains intact, with them singing ‘We’ll see you in court’, in their first game since the ban was made repeating the prejudice claim made by the club’s hierarchy.