Monday’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to overturn Manchester City’s European ban marks a significant victory for the English club in their long conflict with UEFA.
MAY 2014: FIRST SANCTIONS
Charged for failing to maintain a balance between their revenue and expenditure, with a deficit that exceeded the 30-million-euro ($34 million at current exchange rates) maximum at the time, City accepted a conditional fine of 60 million euros in May 2014 to be deducted from European prize money, of which 40 million euros would be lifted if the club met other conditions over the following two seasons.
These included a smaller limit on losses, transfer restrictions and a reduced squad in Europe.
NOVEMBER 2018: REVELATIONS IN FOOTBALL LEAKS
A wide-ranging expose, dubbed ‘Football Leaks’, published by a consortium of European newspapers included the revelation that Manchester City had, among other strategies, used overpriced sponsorship and backdoor contracts to conceal subsidies from owner Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, to sidestep Financial Fair Play (FFP) limits.
The reports alleged that Sheikh Mansour had funnelled 127.5 million euros to the club through City’s sponsors, which include Etihad, the Emirati airline.
Some of the allegations had been laid out in a 2015 report by a consortium of US airlines complaining that they were facing unfair competition from state-subsidised Gulf airlines.
MARCH 7, 2019: NEW UEFA INVESTIGATION
UEFA opened an investigation into “potential violations of the rules of Financial Fair Play”. The possible punishments ranged from a reprimand to a ban from European competitions.
FEBRUARY 14, 2020: CHAMPTIONS LEAGUE BAN
On Valentine’s Day, UEFA’s Adjudicatory Chamber banned City from European competitions for the next two seasons for “serious financial fair-play breaches” in its accounts for the period 2012-2016.
The English champions were also fined 30 million euros ($32.5 million).
They immediately launched an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
JUNE 8-10, 2020: CAS HEARING
Lausanne-based CAS, the arbitrator in sports cases, hears the appeal through a videoconference. It announces that “at the end of the hearings, both parties expressed their satisfaction with the conduct of the procedure”.
JULY 13, 2020: CAS LIFTS CITY’S BAN
CAS set aside the ban, ruling that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber… were either not established or time-barred”.
It said that many of the alleged offences could not be punished because of UEFA’s five-year statute of limitations.
CAS said that while City were guilty of obstructing the UEFA investigation, it was over-ruling the “more significant violation” of “dishonest concealment” of funding.
The only penalty was a fine of 10 million euros, to be paid to UEFA.