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UAE airline helped overturn Manchester City UEFA ban

A Boeing 777-FFX Cargo plane operated by the UAE's Etihad Airways seen in Frankfurt, Germany on September 8, 2017 [Oliver Holzbauer / Flickr / Wikimedia]
A Boeing 777-FFX Cargo plane operated by the UAE's Etihad Airways seen in Frankfurt, Germany on 8 September 2017 [Oliver Holzbauer/Flickr]

Details of the controversial ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which looks into global sports disputes, have been released in a 93-page document. The ruling shows that the UAE's Etihad Airways played a decisive role in having Manchester City's two-year ban from the UEFA Champions League overturned.

Earlier this month, the CAS verdict dismayed many in the footballing world by ruling that the Abu Dhabi-owned English Premier League club had not breached UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. City's European ban was overturned by CAS following accusations that the club's owners disguised at least £204m ($264m) in the club's accounts as sponsorship.

Despite finding "no conclusive evidence that they [City] disguised funding from their owner as sponsorship" CAS judged the club to have shown "blatant disregard" for UEFA's investigation into FFP breaches.

However, the CAS written findings concluded that the panel found "no adverse inferences" could be drawn from City's failure to produce evidence, suggesting that UEFA's conclusion that the football club had breached FFP rules was unfounded.

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Etihad's top executives, including Tony Douglas, are said to have leapt to the defence of City, providing witness statements to argue that the sponsorship deals were genuine. Their statements were key to the club's victory.

In its ruling overturning UEFA's ruling, CAS argued that it would "require a conclusion that the evidence of several high-ranking officials of large international commercial enterprises such as… Mr Douglas were false… This conclusion is not warranted based on the evidence available."

CAS determined that the charges brought in relation to the sponsorship contract of Manchester City were "time barred", meaning that UEFA had not brought its case within the required five-year time period for the sanctions to apply, even if there had been wrongdoing.

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