Date set for Manchester City ban appeal


Manchester City’s appeal against their two-year ban from UEFA will be heard between 8th and 10th June, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has announced. This could mean that the Sky Blues will be able to compete as normal next season, although there are no guarantees.

The appeal will be held behind closed doors as neither City nor UEFA has requested a public hearing. This means that not even the media will be allowed to follow along, either in person or via video link.

What are Manchester City accused of?

UEFA has alleged, investigated, and found City to be guilty of breaching its financial fair play rules. These rules limit the amount of money that a football club in Europe can spend on players to prevent wealthy individuals from buying football clubs and investing large sums to “buy” success, and in turn inflating player wages and making it more difficult for smaller clubs to survive.

These rules help to keep the sport exciting for fans who enjoy watching the games in person or on TV, and who like to place bets on the games through bookmakers like SkyBet. If a single club was able to buy its success it would take away some of the excitement for fans, who would likely become less interested. 

The rules limit a club’s spending to a proportion of its income, preventing loans and direct investments from owners to be used for building up a squad.

UEFA claims that to get around these rules, the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, funnelled money into the club via a sponsorship deal from Etihad. By doing so, Manchester City have allegedly been able to circumvent these rules. 

Sheikh Mansour is a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family and Etihad is the country’s national airline, so UEFA believes that the Etihad sponsorship value was manipulated. 

A string of supposedly leaked emails and other documents appears to demonstrate that from the £67.5 million in annual sponsorship money that City received from Etihad, only £8 million came from the company, while the rest came from Mansour’s own company, Abu Dhabi United Group.

UEFA’s Ban

After an investigation, UEFA slapped Manchester City with a two-year ban from competing in its own competitions. This means they won’t be allowed to take part in the Champions League, Europa League, or the Europa Conference League which is due to start in 2021. 

The club was also hit with a €30 million (£25 million) fine, one of the biggest ever issued in football. Many pundits commented that the fine demonstrates how serious UEFA takes its Financial Fair Play rules. 

UEFA says that the ban and fined were issued after its Adjudicatory Chamber reviewed and considered all of the evidence available. In its view, the evidence demonstrates that Manchester City “overstated” their sponsorship revenues and that that the club “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.

Manchester City’s Defence

Manchester City officials have apparently been preparing the case for their defence ever since UEFA announced it was investigating the club. They has made some very aggressive public statements about the matter, describing UEFA’s process as “prejudicial” and “flawed” with information “consistently leaked”. 

They take issue in the fact that UEFA initiated, prosecuted, and judged the case, although it is not unusual for a sporting matter. 

This aggressive tone could be part of its defensive strategy, appearing confident in the hopes of swaying public opinion and unnerving UEFA. It could also be because the club’s owners and management genuinely believe they haven’t broken the rules. 

City hasn’t commented publicly on what their evidence is, and fans may never get to find out about the details. However, when UEFA first charged the club in May 2019, the club said in a statement that a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence” had been ignored during the investigation and that the process had been “hostile”.

Will Manchester City play in the Champions League next season?

It is not yet clear whether Manchester City will be allowed to play in the Champions League during the 2020/21 season. It currently sits second in the Premier League, 25 points behind leaders Liverpool. 

It looks pretty likely that City will finish the 2019/20 season in the top 4, and therefore secure a place in the Champions League.

Their place is contingent on whether the ban is upheld, or whether City wins its appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

It isn’t that simple either, as it also depends on the timing. Although the hearing is due to take place on 8th-10th June, it doesn’t mean a judgement will be due at that time. Cases at the court have been known to drag on for several years, so it would not be unreasonable for it to happen in this case too. 

If a judgement has not been made by the time the season starts, City will be allowed to play in the 2020/21 season. If the ban is upheld after the start of the season, it will begin at the beginning of the 2021/22 season, and run for the full 2 years. 


What About Manchester City’s place in the Premier League?

While the UEFA ban applies only to UEFA competitions, City also face action in the Premier League too.

No one believes City will be put in a position where it is relegated into the EFL. However, several leading clubs believe that some form of action needs to be taken against it, many believing that this may be a points deduction.

Arguments for such a move generally rest around two main points. The first being that the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules apply to the Premier League in the same way as UEFA’s own competitions.

The second is that the alleged actions of Manchester City have driven up the cost of player salaries right across the sport. Clubs without the same resources have had to pay higher prices to attract and retain talent right across the board.

While we now know the dates for the appeal hearing, football fans don’t yet have any questions to their most important questions. Nor is there currently any indication as to when this will change. 


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