Manchester City stare at financial breach red card
The Premier League on Monday charged its reigning champion, Manchester City, with engaging in years of financial rules violations in their pursuit of trophies, accusations that could result in the most severe punishments in league history — including the prospect that City, one of the most dominant football teams in Europe over the past decade, could be ejected from England’s top division.
The Premier League’s list of charges, outlined in a news release dotted with legalese and dry references to specific rules and bylaws, was remarkable in its scale. Manchester City is accused of more than 100 violations, including failing to provide accurate financial information “that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position”; not disclosing contractual payments to managers and players; and failing, as required, to cooperate with Premier League investigators.
The charges have been referred to an independent commission and will be heard in a confidential hearing, the Premier League said. League officials declined to comment further on the statement or on the case against City. The team currently sits second in the league table. No date has been set for the hearing.
It is unclear what penalties Manchester City will face if the league’s charges are upheld. According to Premier League rules, teams found to have violated its rules face business penalties that could include reprimands and fines or sporting ones like points deductions in the standings or even expulsion from the top division.
Manchester City responded to the charges with a statement whose language was at odds with the league’s claim that City had failed to cooperate in the investigation, which is now in its fifth year. The club declared itself “surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches” and said that it had turned over a “vast amount of detailed materials”.
City said it welcomed an independent review of what it labelled a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence” that it said supported the club’s position.
The scale of wrongdoing alleged in the City case is unprecedented for English football’s top league, which has grown to become the world’s most popular domestic league and one of Britain’s most significant cultural exports. City have been a leading light over the past decade, with six championships since 2012, including four of the past five.
The charges against the club unveiled on Monday date as far back as 2009 — a year after Manchester City was purchased by the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and began a turbocharged era of spending and success.
Under the stewardship of its Gulf owner, Manchester City has been transformed into one of the most successful and free-spending teams in world football, a serial English champion and a regular contender for the world’s best players and Europe’s biggest trophies.
Those titles were secured by a brand of winning football that set points records and at times made the team, with perhaps the deepest and most talented roster in English football history, seem almost unbeatable against domestic opposition. In many seasons, it became routine to see City swat aside even their closest rivals.
But throughout that period, suspicion about Manchester City’s financial dealings shadowed their on-field successes. The focus intensified in 2018, when a Portuguese hacker responsible for uncovering some of the sport’s darkest secrets secured internal Manchester City documents and emails that suggested the club had engaged in years of financial manipulation through deals with companies linked to its wealthy Gulf owners. Sponsorships were used to artificially inflate revenues on City’s balance sheet, the club’s critics argued, and allowed it to continue its relentless acquisition of playing, coaching and scouting talent.
In 2020, Uefa, the governing body for football in Europe, banned City from its top competition, the Champions League, for two years for financial rules violations, though the club appealed the decision and had the ban overturned.
In challenging that ban, City focused on a few words in the governing body’s rules that set a five-year time limit on the infractions eligible for punishment. In effect, Uefa’s investigation had taken too long to consider the most serious offences, the appeals panel found, and so the club escaped the harshest punishments levied against it.
Unlike Uefa, the Premier League does not have a statute of limitations in its disciplinary regulations. Several of the new charges date to the 2009-10 season, and at least one makes reference to the current campaign.
New York Times News Service