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What is Going on With Manchester City?

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Simply put the reigning champions have been accused of breaking a lot of Financial Fair Play rules, allegedly over 10, which are rules designed to limit and control how money can come into a team. If the independent committee finds in favor of the Premier Leagues allegations against Manchester City the team could face being deducted points, stripped of titles, and potentially even ejected from the league.

Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Allegations

The Premier League has submitted a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which alleges that Manchester City has broken the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules as much as over a 100 times since the 2009-10 season. The specific infractions claimed by the Premier League are that the Saudi owners have given money to the club by sources that don't sponsor the club. The rules are basically that if you can get a company to sponsor you then that money is fine, and of course that is a massive oversimplification and there are rules about the amount of money and how it is payed but it is far less restricting than the MLS salary cap rules. There are also further rules that mean that the club has to 'break-even' which means that they have to take in as much money as they pay which they and a number of other clubs broke and were charged for in 2014. That punishment entailed squad restrictions, a fine, and increased salary restrictions. There are also claims that ex-coach Roberto Martinez received a compensation from a fake contract when he left the team back in 2013.

The Club Response & Possible Outcomes

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This is where the case gets even weirder. The club remains adamant that they have done nothing wrong and are even upset that these allegations are being leveled against them. They claim that they have been fully cooperative in past investigations and handed over all documents when asked, specifically in the 2020 case. UEFA, however, claims that they tried to hinder the investigations. In this case the allegations were coming from UEFA, the European soccer governing body, and they were found guilty by UEFA's committee and handed a two year European ban. This was then overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the team was handed a €10 million fine, which sounds big but is fairly inconsequential for a club of that scale.

Looking to the example of Juventus there is precedent for some potentially serious punishments. In both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons Juventus originally won the Serie A but after being found guilty of match fixing they were downgraded to last in the league in the 2005-06 season and relegated to the Serie B. Inter Milan was then awarded that title and the previous title was unassigned. Far more recently Juventus was the subject of another scandal as they were docked 15 points and had 11 former and current executives banned from holding offices in Italian soccer.

In the Premier League there are also interesting implications on the other clubs. There is lots of evidence that as clubs go through turmoil they perform worse, as seen by Chelsea's poor performance as Roman Abramovic was forced out, despite then going on to play well afterwards. It is also well known that the FFP rules incentivize pushing them to the limits and even breaking them as they haven't been accurately upheld in the past. This case, however, could be important in changing that as it could establish a precedent for going through and investigating the rest of the top European clubs and reimposing the FFP rules with points deductions and salary restrictions. Speaking less hypothetically if the club is found guilty and is proven to have lied Head Coach Pep Guardiola will have already left. In numerous interviews over the years he has stood by the club and its owners adamantly claiming innocence, but has also said that if they have lied to him and the world that will break his trust and he wouldn't be able to continue as their head coach.

Being Realistic

While we would all love to see the ridiculous oil money clubs be pulled back to earth, in all likelihood, it isn't going to happen. It is another case like the Super League, the clubs are just too important to ban from the top competitions and they also have too many resources to go down without a ,most likely successful, fight. One of the reasons sighted in the Court of Arbitration for Sports ban overturn was the time between when the rule breach was allegedly committed and when they were finally brought to court. The court said, "Most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB were either not established or time-barred".

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