MANCHESTER CITY have been banned from the Champions League for two years and hit with a £25million by Uefa.
The Citizens have been found guilty of seriously misleading European football’s governing body and breaking Financial Fair play rules.
City were found guilty by Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) of falsely inflating their sponsorship revenues when submitting accounts as part of the FFP compliance process.
And that means they will now be suspended from any Uefa European competition for the next two seasons as well as being hit in the pocket.
The guilty verdict follows an investigation that was triggered after German magazine Der Spiegel “leaked” emails and documents in November 2018.
They appeared to provide evidence that City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family was mostly funding the £67.5m-a-year sponsorship of the club’s shirts, stadium and academy via his nation’s Etihad airline.
One of the emails leaked claimed that just £8m of that sponsorship in the 2015/16 campaign was funded directly from Etihad.
The rest came via Mansour’s own company vehicle for the ownership of City, the Abu Dhabi United Group.
As such, the team that finishes fifth in the Premier League WILL go into the Champions League next season if City finish in the top four – providing a huge boost to the likes of Manchester United, Sheffield United, Tottenham, Wolves and Everton.
But a statement from the club has vowed to fight the decision: “Manchester City is disappointed but not surprised by today’s announcement by the Uefa Adjudicatory Chamber.
“The club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position.
“In December 2018, the Uefa Chief Investigator publicly previewed the outcome and sanction he intended to be delivered to Manchester City, before any investigation had even begun.
“The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked Uefa process he oversaw has meant that there was little doubt in the result that he would deliver.
“The club has formally complained to the Uefa Disciplinary body, a complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling.
“Simply put, this is a case initiated by Uefa, prosecuted by Uefa and judged by Uefa.
“With this prejudicial process now over, the club will pursue an impartial judgement as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity.”
FFP was introduced in 2011 in order to stop European clubs overspending on player wages, restricting the amount owners are able to use of their own cash to cover losses.
Money from sponsorships obviously boost revenues and increase how much a team can spend, so if Mansour was funding the Etihad deal himself then it led to the allegation City had deceived Uefa’s CFCB.
The reigning Premier League champions have always denied any wrongdoing since the leaks, denouncing the Spiegel coverage as based on “leaked or stolen” documents that were taken out of context.
Spiegel, whose source was referred to as “John”, say no computers were hacked in order to obtain the emails.
Portuguese national, Rui Pinto, was later identified as “John” and has since been charged with 147 criminal offences, including hacking and other cybercrimes, which he denies.
But none of those charges relate to the City “leak” and are only in relation to Portuguese football clubs.
Uefa announced in May they were charging City, who again denied any wrongdoing and claimed they had been subjected to a “hostile” process which ignored “a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence”.
City were initially fined £49m for FFP breaches in 2014, although that was later reduced to £16m.
City travel to Real Madrid in the last-16 of the Champions League on February 26 before welcoming the Galacticos to the Etihad for the return leg on March 17.
Today's announcement casts further doubts on the long-term future of boss Pep Guardiola – who admitted he could be axed if City fail to overcome Real.
And they could also face the prospect of losing some of their star-studded squad and missing out on new additions without the opportunity of competing in Europe's prestige club competition.
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