London (AFP) – Manchester City showed a «blatant disregard» for UEFA’s investigation into alleged Financial Fair Play (FFP) breaches, according to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but European football’s governing body failed to prove City had disguised funding from the club’s owners as sponsorship income.
Earlier this month, CAS overturned a two-year ban from European competitions imposed on City by UEFA and reduced a fine of 30 million euros (£27 million, $35 million) to 10 million euros.
The full reasoned judgement by CAS released on Tuesday showed that the fine was to reflect «a severe breach» in City’s unwillingness to cooperate with UEFA’s investigation.
But that the charges of alleged concealment of equity funding were more significant violations and that «based on the evidence the panel cannot reach the conclusion that disguised funding was paid to City.»
City’s fortunes on the field have been transformed since a takeover from Shiekh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, in 2008.
The club were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from Emirati sponsors Etisalat and Etihad Airways to meet UEFA’s FFP regulations, which limits the losses clubs can make to spend on player transfer fees and wages.
UEFA launched an investigation after German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails relating to City’s finances in 2018.
CAS indicated that witness statements from senior City executives as well as a letter from Sheikh Mansour – all provided to CAS but not to UEFA during the first process – could have swung the original verdict in City’s favour.
«The appealed decision is therefore not per se wrong but, at least to a certain extent, is a consequence of MCFC’s decision to produce the most relevant evidence at its disposal only in the present appeal proceedings before CAS,» said the court.
The judgement also found that UEFA’s case was hamstrung by the necessity to finalise the appeal before the start of the 2020/2021 Champions League as it relinquished a request for more evidence to be provided from City’s emails.
«UEFA’s approach in this regard is understood, because it was faced with a dilemma between trying to obtain additional evidence and having an award issued before the start of the 2020/2021 UEFA club competitions season,» added the CAS panel.
Nine Premier League clubs — Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, Man United, Newcastle, Tottenham and Wolves — filed an application to UEFA for City not to be allowed to compete in European competition if a verdict was not reached before the start of the 2020/21 season.