LONDON – Manchester City, the English football team who are set to win the Premier League for the third time in four seasons, are embroiled in a secret legal battle with the league over whether they are sticking to financial rules while it was becoming one of the dominant forces in sport.
The Premier League has been quiet since confirming in 2019 that it was reviewing City’s finances a few months after German weekly Der Spiegel, citing internal club information, said the club disguised the investment direct from its owner, Sheikh Mansour, in the form of sponsorship. Income. The city has always insisted it did not break any regulations and denounced the stolen documents as “out of context documents” which were released as part of an “organized and clear attempt to damage reputation. of the club”.
City have spent millions of dollars defending themselves since the allegations first emerged. His lawyers are fighting the league’s arbitration process, arguing the club will not get a fair hearing, documents show. City and the league did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
City are challenging the Premier League in UK civil courts, where the hearings were held behind closed doors and the release of documents related to the case remained confidential despite intense public interest in the case. It is unclear what action the Premier League would take if they found City to have broken their rules. Penalties in its rulebook include point deductions and fines.
City, backed by the billionaire brother of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, one of the richest men in the world, fought a successful battle in 2020 when they won an appeal against a two-year ban from the League of champions after being found violated separate cost control rules by European football’s governing body, UEFA. City won their case in the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration after convincing the judges that a deadline had passed on the evidence against them. Premier League rules don’t have similar time limits.
City only need one more victory to be sure of the English league. He is also in charge of securing his first Champions League crown. He holds a 2-1 advantage over Paris Saint-Germain, another Gulf-controlled club, ahead of Tuesday night’s decisive second semi-final game at his own stadium.
The case takes place against the backdrop of close scrutiny from the owners of English football. A protest by fans of City Crosstown rivals Manchester United led to their game against Liverpool being postponed on Sunday after the two clubs joined City and three other England sides to enter a scheduled European breakaway competition . The plans were scrapped within 48 hours after a torrent of criticism and the threat of government action.
Still, City were applauded after becoming the first of the rebel English clubs to announce they had walked away from the project.
City’s battle against the Premier League bears the hallmarks of their approach in the case of UEFA. Before finding salvation thanks to a technicality in the rules which set a period of five years for offenses punishable by penalties, the club tried to have the case dismissed before the CAS even before UEFA gave its opinion.
City’s position in the Premier League affair is a second recent major assault on the league’s governance structures. The Newcastle United owner took legal action last fall against the league after failing to clear a sale to the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
City’s relationship with UEFA has grown considerably since they successfully appealed the Champions League ban. UEFA has resisted appealing the CAS judgment even after Der Spiegel released new revelations which appeared to cast doubt on some of the evidence a senior city official had provided to the court.
UEFA told the New York Times in a statement that it had sought legal advice on the possibility of appealing the CAS decision after Der Spiegel released new emails. “The clear opinion was that such an appeal would have little chance of success in forcing the CAS to repeat the case and, given the low luck it did, the chances of success in a second hearing. were also limited. A similar point of view was also expressed on the possible success of a suit in the disciplinary framework of UEFA, ”said UEFA.
Its chairman, Aleksander Ceferin, praised City personally, issuing a statement minutes after the team last month became the first to withdraw from the proposed breakaway competition.
While the superliga’s proposals continue to attract much criticism, those involved in the negotiations insist that part of their rationale was to cool the rampant spending that has put the future of some elite clubs in jeopardy. as they seek to follow teams supported by wealthy benefactors. , especially those controlled by Gulf nation states.
Documents examined by The Times showed that each team should have submitted detailed financial information to financial auditors, and agreed to rules prohibiting owners from artificially inflating teams’ balance sheets. Penalties for breaches included a suspension or ban from competition, as well as millions of dollars in fines.
City supporters say the existing rules were designed to prevent historically dominant clubs from facing competition from emerging teams. Sheikh Mansour has invested over $ 1 billion to make City the dominant force in English football for most of the past decade. His largesse was spent on acquiring top executives, players and Pep Guardiola, the preeminent manager of his generation.
City have also spent millions to rejuvenate the underprivileged area of Manchester where they play their home games, build new facilities and create jobs in an area which has suffered from high unemployment.