English champions charged with over 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations
Manchester City are facing the threat of relegation from the English top flight after being charged by the Premier League with more than 100 alleged breaches of its financial regulations.
The Premier League champions were yesterday hit by an astonishing catalogue of charges covering 14 seasons from 2009-’10 to the current campaign which, if proven, would amount to one of the biggest scandals in English football history.
The bombshell revelations follow a four-year investigation by the Premier League that has now culminated in the club being charged with allegedly breaching 115 regulations. City could face an unprecedented range of punishments including a suspension, points deductions, sweeping fines and the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the league.
An independent disciplinary committee – which is set to be selected and could yet be chaired by Murray Rosen KC – will hear the charges in private. No timescale has been announced by the Premier League but an executive at one top-flight club said there was an “eagerness” for an outcome before the end of the season.
City were banned for two years from European competition by UEFA in 2020 for alleged breaches of their Financial Fair Play rules but the club successfully overturned that suspension in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, there will not be an option for City to appeal to CAS against any Premier League sanctions as the European court is not recognised by the clubs. Instead, City would have to pursue options via London law courts.
One of the Premier League clubs outside the so-called Big Six said they welcomed the charges against City. Of the prospect of the club being expelled from the league, the senior executive said: “It’s not something we will lobby for but, if they’re guilty, it’s certainly not something we would oppose.”
Stefan Borson, a lawyer and former financial adviser to City, says the case includes the “strongest allegations imaginable” of financial doping.
“Alarmist or not, the sheer extent of the PL charges are at a level that IF found proven, must lead to relegation,” he tweeted.
In a statement yesterday morning, the Premier League said: “The Premier League confirms that it has today referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club to a commission.”
The Premier League first opened its investigation into City in March 2019, and the scale of the alleged breaches is eye-watering.
The charges relating to financial reporting span nine seasons from 2009-’10 to 2017-’18. Additionally, City have been charged with not cooperating with the investigation and not handing over documents as required over a five-season period from 2018-’19 to this campaign.
Some of the charges also pertain to the club allegedly failing to provide full details around former manager Roberto Mancini’s pay between 2009 and 2013 and not providing “full details of player remuneration in its relevant contracts with players” from 2010-’11 to 2015-’16, both of which are required under Premier League rules.
City expressed “surprise” at the move and said it would welcome the commission’s hearing as a chance to put allegations of financial impropriety that have dogged the club for years “to rest once and for all”. The club said there was a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.”
Senior sources at City believe the timing of the announcement was no coincidence with a long-awaited UK government white paper on football governance due imminently.
Insiders at the club feel it is part of a strategy by the Premier League to show they are capable of adequate governance amid calls for an independent football regulator.
“This is tactical,” one source said. Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, also questioned the timing of the Premier League’s announcement and said there had been a clear political advantage in doing so.
Within an hour of the statement, it was confirmed that proposed changes to football regulation had been delayed by a fortnight and that the white paper would not be published until February 20 at the earliest.
Eyebrows were also raised at City that the club were not given any warning of the charges until a courier delivered legal papers from the Premier League. It was around the same time that Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, was first informed of the news just as it was about to go live on the Premier League’s website. There was said to be some disquiet at the club that elements of the media became aware of the information before them.
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