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European football ban on Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City lifted

Football match between Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City on 11 July 2020 in Brighton, England. [Julian Finney/Getty Images]
Football match between Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City on 11 July 2020 in Brighton, England. [Julian Finney/Getty Images]

An order barring Manchester City from competing in European football for two years was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) yesterday, Reuters reports.

The CAS verdict ruled the Abu Dhabi-owned English Premier League club had not breached Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations and slashed the team’s fine for failing to cooperate with UEFA from €30 million ($34 million) to €10 million ($11 million).

CAS was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement: “Most of the alleged breaches reported by the (UEFA) Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred.”

According to UEFA’s procedural regulations, clubs cannot be prosecuted for FFP violations that take place more than five years prior. Manchester City’s original ban was based on information submitted between 2012 and 2016.

The ban would have stopped the club from competing in any European competition, including the Champions League and Europa League until the 2022-23 season.

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The club, which is currently second in the Premier League table, welcomed the ruling saying in a statement: “The Club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the Club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present.”

The original ban was instated in February 2020 after UEFA ruled Manchester City had disguised equity funding as sponsorship, allowing the club to report higher earnings and overspend on players, in breach of FFP regulations.

According to a 2015 Der Speigel investigation, Manchester City manipulated revenue figures from Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned airline, listing the money as sponsorship. In fact, most of the funds were sourced from the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour.

The FFP regulations, which were introduced in 2011, ties clubs to paying for players wages and transfer fees within their annual earnings.

FFP rules are intended to prevent clubs from running into financial problems after years of overspending and to prevent ‘financial doping’ in football – where teams gain an unfair advantage by bankrolling the best players on high wages.

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