Manchester City are embroiled in a legal fight against charges brought against them by the Premier League.
City were this year accused of more than 100 alleged breaches of the competition’s financial rules.
The Premier League said it would be referring the charges against reigning English champions, who have won five of the past six top-flight titles under Pep Guardiola, to an independent commission.
Following a four-year investigation looking into City’s financial dealings over a nine-year period, the Premier League confirmed its allegations against the club on February 6, 2023.
Man City said they were “surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches” and welcomed the prospect of an independent commission that would “impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence” that supports the club’s position.
City’s ongoing case came back into the spotlight in November 2023, when Everton were deducted 10 points for breaches of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability laws. The club said they were “shocked and disappointed” by the decision and would be appealing against the independent commission’s recommended punishment. Everton also said they will “monitor with great interest the decisions made in any other cases concerning the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules”.
Below, The Sporting News looks to break down exactly what’s happened with Man City and the potential fallout.
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Through a statement on February 6, the Premier League alleged that Man City breached rules requiring “accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position”.
Information includes the club’s revenue, sponsorship revenue and operating costs, with the alleged rule-breaking taking place between 2009 and 2018. City won the Premier League three times during that period.
Alleged breaches also relate to rules requiring full details of manager remuneration during Roberto Mancini’s reign from the 2009/10 to 2012/13 seasons and player remuneration between 2010/11 and 2015/16.
The Premier League also accused the club of not fully co-operating with their investigation, which began in December 2018.
Here is the full list of charges brought against the club by the Premier League.
Commissions are independent of the Premier League and member clubs. The members of the Commission will be appointed by the independent Chair of the Premier League Judicial Panel, in accordance with Premier League Rules W.19, W.20 and W.26.”
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A statement from the club on February 6 read: “Manchester City FC is surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with.
“The Club welcomes the review of this matter by an independent Commission, to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.
“As such we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all.”
On May 18, The Times reported that City had launched a legal challenge against the charges. According to the report, the club are “disputing the legality of the investigation” and are concerned about the impartiality of the barrister in charge of the disciplinary process because he is said to be an Arsenal fan.
In May 2022, manager Pep Guardiola revealed he would quit the club if his bosses ever lied to him about any wrongdoing at the top level.
“Why did I defend the club and the people? It’s because I work with them,” Guardiola said at the time. “When they are accused of something I ask them: ‘Tell me about that.’
“They explain and I believe them. I said to them: ‘If you lie to me, the day after, I am not here. I will be out and I will not be your friend any more. I put my faith in you because I believe you 100 per cent from day one and I defend the club because of that.'”
We are a long way off finding out whether City will face any punishment if they are found guilty of any of the alleged breaches brought against them by the Premier League.
Given the investigation has taken four years to complete, you would expect City be given plenty of time to respond to the allegations and their latest legal challenge will, at the very least, prolong the entire process. We could be looking at years instead of months until this matter is properly settled.
According to Martin Ziegler of The Times, there are a “range of sanctions” possible if found guilty, including points deductions. Reports also suggest fines, transfer embargoes or even expulsion from the league are potential punishments.
Everton were deducted 10 points after being found to have broken the league’s profit and sustainability rules, although they responded to the November 2023 ruling by insisting they would appeal against the punishment. However, the regulations Everton were accused of breaking relate to the permitted losses Premier League clubs can make, which are assessed using the club’s own published accounts, so it would be remiss to compare their case too closely with that of Man City.
In 2014, Man City accepted a conditional £49 million fine and restrictions on their Champions League squad size and incoming transfers after being found guilty of breaching UEFA’s FFP rules.
“In normal circumstances the club would wish to pursue its case and present its position through every avenue of recourse,” City said after settling the case with UEFA. “However, our decision to do so must be balanced against the practical realities for our fans, for our partners and in the interests of the commercial operations of the club.”
In February 2020, Man City were separately accused by UEFA of “serious” breaches of the governing body’s financial fair play rules between 2012 and 2016 following an investigation prompted by leaked documents published by Der Spiegel.
The club strongly denied the allegations and a two-year ban from European competition was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in July 2020. The original £25m fine was also reduced to £9m.
At the time, CAS ruled: “Most of the alleged breaches were either not established or time-barred.” City said the outcome of the appeal was “validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present”.
However, under Premier League rules, there is no similar restriction on the length of time since an alleged offence.