MANCHESTER CITY have been judged guilty of breaking Financial Fair Play rules.
And the Prem champions now face the realistic prospect of a Champions League ban.
Uefa this morning confirmed its investigations unit had found City were in breach of FFP regulations.
In a short statement, Uefa explained: “The Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) chief investigator, after having consulted with the other members of the independent investigatory chamber of the CFCB, has today decided to refer Manchester City FC to the CFCB adjudicatory chamber following the conclusion of his investigation.
“The CFCB investigatory chamber had opened an investigation into Manchester City FC on 7 March 2019 for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations that were made public in various media outlets.”
Uefa said it would make no further comment pending the final judgement, now expected within a matter of weeks.
But it is understood that the eight-man panel, led by former Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and which includes former Liverpool and Premier League chief executive Rick Parry, is recommending a ban for the Etihad outfit.
Uefa were prompted to act following the Football Leaks document dumps in November and March, which saw City accused of a number of breaches.
The Etihad club are accused of hiding millions in funding from the club’s owners, Abu Dhabi United Group, under the guise of legitimate sponsorship earnings from Gulf-based companies including Etihad Airways and investment giants Aabar.
A statement posted by the club on Twitter read: "Manchester City Football Club is disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by the sudden announcement of the referral to be made by the CFCB IC Chief Investigator Yves Leterme.
"The leaks to media over the last week are indicative of the process that has been overseen by Mr Leterme.
"Manchester City is entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body.
"The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC to the Chamber.
"The decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally born out of a basic lack of due process and there remain significant unresolved matter raised by Manchester City FC as part of what the club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed and hostile process."
Emails and documents also suggested City had asked sponsors to pay bonuses for winning the FA Cup in 2013 – although they LOST to Wigan in the Final – and siphoned image rights payments to players through a separate company that was actually still controlled by the club.
Further allegations claimed City had paid the agent of then-14-year-old Jadon Sancho £200,000 to help entice him from Watford in 2014.
City’s involvement with their Ghana-based Right to Dream academy was under scrutiny, too.
A tie-up with the academy founder Tom Vernon, now based at Danish side Nordsjaelland, which allegedly gave City first choice of players and a financial stake in others, brought claims of potential third party ownership by the Prem side.
All of the allegations have been vehemently denied by the club, who raged against “the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails”.
Reports from the New York Times that a recommendation of a sanction was imminent, now seemingly confirmed by Uefa’s statement, brought the first City response in two months.
This time, City condemned the “entirely false” allegations in a statement which accused Uefa of bad faith.
The club said: “Manchester City FC is fully cooperating in good faith with the Club Financial Control Body Investigation Chamber’s ongoing investigation.
“In doing so the club is reliant on both the CFCB IC’s independence and commitment to due process; and on Uefa’s commitment of the 7th of March that it will make no further comment on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.
“The New York Times report citing ‘people familiar with the case’ is therefore extremely concerning.
“Either Manchester City’s good faith is misplaced or the process is being misrepresented by individuals intent on damaging the Club’s reputation and its commercial interests. Or both.”
“Manchester City’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.
“The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false, and comprehensive proof of this fact has been provided to the CFCB IC.”
City had the right to ask for Parry to be recused from the investigation but it is believed they did not make that application, although there were issues over one other panel member, Russian Konstantin Sonin.
While a ban would – unless it were suspended – start next season, City have the right to appeal any sanction imposed by Uefa.
They can then take the ultimate step of an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, which would be unlikely to make a final adjudication before the end of the year.
During that process, sanctions would almost certainly be put on hold, clearing City to take part in the Champions League next season.
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