Manchester City have asked the court of arbitration for sport to throw out the financial fair play case that has been brought against them by European football’s governing body, Uefa.
The surprise move is a preemptive strike, as the FFP case has not even been heard yet by the adjudicatory chamber of Uefa’s club financial control board.
Last month, the head of the CFCB’s investigatory arm, Yves Leterme, decided that the Premier League champions do have a case to answer, and it is understood he has recommended that they be banned from European club competition for at least a season.
There was never a doubt that City would have appealed against any such sanction at CAS, but the club have decided they are not going to wait for that.
In a statement on Thursday, sport’s highest court said it has registered an appeal filed by City against Uefa.
‘The appeal is filed against decisions taken by the investigatory chamber of the Uefa club financial control body regarding City’s alleged non-compliance with Uefa’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations,’ it said.
‘An arbitration procedure will now be initiated and will involve an exchange of written submissions between the parties, while a panel of CAS arbitrators is convened to hear the appeal.
‘Once the panel has been formally constituted, it will issue a procedural calendar. It is not possible to say at this time when the arbitral award for this matter will be issued.’
Leterme, a former prime minister of Belgium, opened his investigation on 7 March following a series of reports in German news magazine Der Spiegel last year that suggested the club had deceived Uefa about its finances.
Uefa’s financial fair play rules have been in operation since 2011, and were brought in to tackle European football’s debt problems and encourage teams to balance their books.
City and French champions Paris St Germain were the first high-profile clubs to fall foul of the rules in 2014.
City were fined £49-million for what Uefa believed was the artificial inflation of deals with ‘related parties’ – in other words, companies linked to their owner Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family.
Despite protesting their innocence, City accepted the sanction, which included a restriction on the size of their Champions League squad, but were eventually reimbursed with two thirds of their fine – £33-million – in 2017 for apparently complying with the rules.
However, Leterme and his team now believe City lied to them during that investigation, particularly about the true source of their sponsorship income and their actual wage bill.
In a strongly worded statement issued shortly after the case was referred upwards, Manchester City said they were ‘disappointed’ by Leterme’s decision.
City expressed themselves ‘entirely confident of a positive outcome’ due to ‘a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence’ being ignored.
It added that ‘the decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process, and there remain significant unresolved matters raised by Manchester City as part of what the club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed and hostile process’.
It is not unheard for disputes to go straight to CAS, but that is usually when both parties have agreed time is short and the matter would end up at CAS anyway.
As there is no suggestion Uefa is pressing for City to be removed from next season’s Champions League, the club‘s move represents a risk, as CAS usually wants appellants to have exhausted every avenue before an appeal.
City have declined to say anything about their appeal to CAS, and Uefa has not yet responded to requests for comment.
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