Money talks. Manchester City had been banned by UEFA from participating in the Champions League for the next two seasons for violating Financial Fair Play regulations and then obstructing the official investigation into those violations. Today, news dropped that City had successfully appealed the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which threw out the two-year ban from European competition and reduced the fine from €40m to a measly €10m.
The CAS ruled that, to put it simply, there wasn’t ENOUGH evidence to convict City of violations (not that there wasn’t evidence), and that a number of the charges brought forth by UEFA had been “time-barred,” meaning that they were effectively past the statute of limitations. It did note that City did obstruct the investigation, and that the €10m fine was levied for that obstruction.
From the BBC report:
Cas, who will provide full written reasons for the ruling “in a few days” said the decision “emphasised that most of the alleged breaches reported by the adjudicatory chamber of the CFCB were either not established or time-barred”.
It added that in clearing City of the more serious charges surrounding “dishonest concealment” of sponsorship deals it was “not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in Uefa’s club competitions” for the lesser charge of “obstructing the CFCB’s investigations”.
In layman’s terms, City broke FFP rules, lied about it, obstructed the investigation, and then delayed long enough to run out the clock. And the CAS rewarded them for it.
The upshot is that City will now be able to participate in the Champions League next season. That means it just got that much harder for clubs outside the top four — Sheffield United, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester, Wolves — to qualify for the UCL because now fifth place is a Europa spot and not a Champions League spot. It also means that Tottenham Hotspur will have a harder time qualifying for Europa League, since now the lowest possible spot that could send a team to Euro qualifiers is seventh, not eighth.
The other upshot is that the integrity of FFP is in tatters and there are no rules for oligarchs — it has now been definitively proven that you can flaunt and get away with FFP violations, so long as you have the money and power to appeal your way out of it. However, clubs that don’t have those means — say, mid-table sides in various federations or Championship clubs that overspend their means to make a hail-mary push for promotion, will still get screwed should the FFP hammer come down..
Great system. Really fair and equitable.