Manchester City's two-year Champions League ban lifted in landmark football ruling

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring for Manchester City against Arsenal, June 17, 2020. (AFP)

Manchester City successfully overturned its two-year ban from the Champions League on Monday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld City’s appeal against the UEFA ban, but imposed a 10 million euro ($11.3 million) fine for failing to cooperate with investigators.

The verdict by three judges clears the team coached by Pep Guardiola to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season. The case does not affect City’s place in this season’s competition, which resumes next month.

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City’s win guarantees tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season. It also protects against players leaving to seek Champions League action with another club.

Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester “no matter what happens” in the courts.

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 13, 2017. Manchester City won the game 2-1. (AFP)

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 13, 2017. Manchester City won the game 2-1. (AFP)

UEFA punished Man City in February for “serious breaches” of rules monitoring club finances and failing to cooperate with investigators. The allegations included that City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, misled UEFA over several years to meet financial integrity rules — known as Financial Fair Play — required to enter European club competitions.

City denied wrongdoing, and said it had “irrefutable evidence” the claims were not true.

The urgent ruling came one month after a three-day hearing held by video link between Switzerland and England. A full verdict detailing the evidence, expert witness testimony and the judges’ reasons is unlikely to be published for at least several weeks.

UEFA-appointed investigators opened a case after leaked club emails and documents from City officials were published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. They were likely obtained by a hacker from Portugal.

 Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker controls the ball during the Premier League football match against Bournemouth on August 25, 2019. (AFP)

Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker controls the ball during the Premier League football match against Bournemouth on August 25, 2019. (AFP)

The published evidence appeared to show City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hid the source of revenue linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi.

City never disputed the documents were authentic, but argued the evidence was stolen and reported out of context.

UEFA had previously signed off on City’s submitted accounts since 2014. That year, UEFA fined City 20 million euros ($22.6 million) of its Champions League prize money in a first wave of assessments of European clubs’ finances.

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.

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Last Update: Monday, 13 July 2020 KSA 11:55 - GMT 08:55
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