How Manchester City came to face Premier League charges

GENEVA — The English Premier League against Manchester City: a legal match for the ages.

Football’s richest and most-watched club competition challenged its defending champion on Monday with more than 100 charges of alleged financial wrongdoing and failure to cooperate in an investigation that has spanned more than four years.

Dozens of charges allege breaches of league financial oversight rules dating back to 2009, when Man City’s first full season was owned by the Abu Dhabi ruling family. A further 30 charges relate to Man City’s lack of cooperation over the past five seasons with a Premier League investigation opened after a leak and likely hack, club internal communications were published in 2018.

This leak of evidence has led UEFA investigators to look into likely breaches of financial rules designed to create stability in an often volatile European football industry. UEFA-appointed judges imposed a two-year ban from the Champions League in 2020, which the club overturned on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Man City seem more threatened by the English case, which does not involve a limitation period for evidence which was a problem for UEFA lawyers.

The Premier League’s regulations – signed by member clubs like Man City – give its disciplinary committees sweeping powers to punish teams if the charges are proven. This could range from being fined, stripped of a title or even kicking Man City out of the English Premier League.

Here is an overview of the case:


Known as financial fair play, the regulations aim to prevent clubs from spending more than they earn. The FFP was created in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, which heightened concerns in European football that clubs could go bankrupt if the cost of player transfers and wages continued to rise.

Critics believed they would favor legendary clubs with established global appeal, such as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester United. They said the FFP would be used to thwart emerging clubs that had wealthy owners willing to spend big and accelerate growth.

At the same time, historically underperforming Manchester City was bought in September 2008 with the sovereign wealth of the United Arab Emirates. When UEFA in 2011 began monitoring the finances of clubs qualifying for European competition, City had made progress by spending big on players.

The first round of FFP judging in 2014 saw the heaviest penalties for Man City and Paris Saint-Germain – each lost 20 million euros ($21.4 million) in Champions League prize money.

Both were suspected of recording inflated revenue in their accounts through sponsorship deals at above-market rates with companies in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

“If clubs use unrealistic deals to circumvent financial fair play,” Arsene Wenger warned in 2012 when he was manager at Arsenal, “it will flout the rules”.

The English Premier League subsequently adopted a version of the UEFA FFP rules.


In November 2018, Man City were Premier League champions with three titles in the first decade of their Abu Dhabi era, and a hugely talented squad coached by Pep Guardiola.

Still, skepticism remained about the club’s commercial results.

German magazine Der Spiegel then published the “Football Leaks” series of articles based on the club’s internal documents and communications.

They suggested Man City breached FFP rules in financial dealings with ‘tied’ Abu Dhabi sponsors, its use of image rights payments to players and the contract of Roberto Mancini, who was manager from 2009 at 13. He reportedly doubled his base salary for advising a club in Abu Dhabi.

Man City did not deny the documents were genuine but said they were obtained illegally by a Portuguese man, Rui Pinto. He was then tried in Lisbon. The verdict is expected in April.


After the publication of the Football Leaks, UEFA club investigators reviewed their case and asked the chamber of judges to ban Man City from European competitions.

In February 2020, these judges banned Man City for two seasons for “serious breaches” of the rules from 2012 to 2016, including overstating sponsor income and failing to cooperate with investigators.

Three CAS judges overturned the ban in July 2020, ruling that some UEFA charges were unproven and other evidence was excluded as time-barred. The court “firmly condemned” Man City for obstructing UEFA’s investigation, although a fine of 10 million euros ($10.7 million) was a third of the original sentence.

Cleared to play in the next Champions League, Man City reached the final and won 119 million euros ($128 million) in prize money.


The English case against Man City continued separately from the UEFA process in Switzerland.

The Premier League announced charges on Monday. A lawyer who chairs the league’s judicial college will appoint a disciplinary commission of three judges.

A hearing will be held in secret, with no timetable yet for a verdict. Any subsequent legal challenges should be directed to the Premier League Appeals Committee.

Man City said they were surprised by the charges and “we look forward to this matter being settled once and for all”.


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