London (AFP) – European football’s financial fair play rules risk being «scuppered» if Manchester City overturn their two-season ban from continental competition, according to a soccer analyst.
UEFA announced the punishment on Friday and also imposed a fine of 30 million euros ($32 million, £25 million) on the English champions for what it said were City’s serious breaches of its FFP regime.
City, however, wasted little time in responding by saying they would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the hope of securing an «impartial judgment».
Since the Sheikh Mansour takeover in 2008, which put the financial might of Abu Dhabi behind them, City have won 10 major trophies — including four Premier League titles.
Yet the prize that has eluded them is the one the Abu Dhabi project most desires — the UEFA Champions League.
The Chinese government have provided City with additional backing, as has US private equity firm Silver Lake.
They are all set to ensure City has a no expense spared legal team that will challenge the validity of UEFA’s ruling.
Should City succeed, the entire FFP system could collapse, according to Professor Simon Chadwick, director at the Centre for the Eurasian Sport Industry.
– ‘Transnational power’ –
«In essence UEFA has to try to win this because, if it doesn’t win or is undermined in any way, then its position on Financial Fair Play begins to unravel…FFP is scuppered,» Chadwick told Britain’s Press Association news agency.
«However, they are not taking on Wigan, they are taking on Asian governments, US tech investors and some of the smartest, most-talented people in football.
«It is transnational power versus localised governance.»
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was just one of several leading football figures stunned by the severity of the UEFA punishment.
«It was a shock,» said Klopp, whose Champions League title holders are on well on course to succeed City as champions of England.
«What they have done on the football pitch is exceptional. The rest, I don’t know,» added Klopp, speaking after a 1-0 win at bottom-of-the-table Norwich on Saturdy saw leaders Liverpool extend their advantage over second-placed City at the top of the Premier League to 25 points.
UEFA say City have breached FFP rules that place restrictions on how much money a club can lose.
Over a three-year period, clubs are not permitted to lose more than 30 million euros with exceptions for costs such as youth development and women’s teams.
UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body found City ensured they did not fall foul of those restrictions by overstating their sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016.
If City’s appeal fails, manager Pep Guardiola and several star players could leave the club.
Guardiola’s contract runs until the end of the 2020/21 season, but the only major task left for the Catalan in Manchester is to make City European champions for the first time.
City play Real Madrid in the last 16 of this season’s edition and if the campaign ends with the club yet to lift the Champions League trophy, Guardiola may bow out rather than compete for domestic honours alone.
Similarly, players of the calibre of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are unlikely to want to waste two of their peak years without the lure of Champions League football.