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MANCHESTER CITY overturned its two-year ban from the Champions League in a shock legal decision yesterday.
The ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) throws further doubt on the future of the Uefa Financial Fair Play (FFP) programme, which has proved largely toothless since its introduction in 2009, as well as on the future of the court itself.
Cas upheld City’s appeal against the ban issued by Uefa for alleged breaches of FFP, saying that the club had not disguised equity funding as sponsorship and that most of the allegations against it were “either not established or were time-barred.”
It did find that City had breached club licensing and FFP regulations by failing to co-operate with the European governing body’s investigation.
But the club’s initial €30 million (£27m) fine was reduced to €10m (£8.9m) by Cas.
City was valued at £3.73 billion last year.
Owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, it joins fellow mega-rich clubs Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in defeating Uefa at Cas in the past two years.
Turkish club Galatasaray also beat Uefa at the court last year, when it ruled that the governing body could not engage in an investigation of the team’s compliance with FFP rules.
La Liga president Javier Tebas said the latest decision proves that the Swiss court is “not up to standard.”
“We have to reassess whether the Cas is the appropriate body to which to appeal institutional decisions in football,” he said.
“Switzerland is a country with a great history of arbitration; the Cas is not up to standard.”
Uefa created FFP after the global economic crisis to monitor the finances of the 200-plus clubs which qualify each year for its competitions. Clubs are supposed to approach breaking-even on commercial income and spending on transfers and salaries, while sponsorship deals linked to wealthy owners are also supposed to be set at fair market rates.
Yesterday’s decision clears Pep Guardiola’s team to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season. The case does not affect City’s place in the current competition, which resumes next month.
City’s legal win also guarantees tens of millions of pounds in Uefa prize money next season. It also protects against players leaving to seek Champions League action with another club.
Uefa said it “took note” of the decision and claimed: “Over the last few years, FFP has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and Uefa and [the European Club Association] remain committed to its principles.
Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester “no matter what happens” in the courts.
“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,” City said in a statement yesterday.
Uefa could choose to challenge the Cas ruling at Switzerland’s supreme court. Federal appeals in Cas cases rarely succeed and only consider narrow grounds of legal procedure.
The Premier League opened its own investigation into allegations of FFP breaches against City in March last year. It had no comment to make on that probe yesterday.
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