Manchester City will compete in the Champions League next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted their two-year ban from UEFA competitions.
European football's governing body announced the sanction in February, along with a €30million (£27.2m) fine, after finding City guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
City swiftly announced their intention to appeal to CAS and that case was heard over the course of three days from June 8 via video conference.
The Swiss-based court found in City's favour, ruling they did not disguise funding from their Abu Dhabi ownership as sponsorship contributions, although the Premier League club must still pay a €10m fine for failing to cooperate with UEFA's investigation.
As Pep Guardiola's faith in his club's bullish stance appears to have been fully vindicated, we take a look at what it means for City, UEFA and FFP.
WHAT WERE CITY INITIALLY FOUND GUILTY OF?
The independent Adjudicatory Chamber of UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) found City had "committed serious breaches" of FFP rules "by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016".
UEFA launched its investigation after a series of articles published by Der Spiegel in November 2018 alleged City had artificially inflated income from sponsors linked to the club's Abu Dhabi ownership. The governing body also stated City "failed to cooperate in the investigation of this case by the CFCB".
WHAT WAS THE CLUB'S RESPONSE TO THE BAN?
Emphatic. City said they were "disappointed but not surprised" by the punishment that emerged from a "prejudicial process" and welcomed the prospect of CAS considering a "comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence" in support of their case.
WHY DID CAS FIND IN CITY'S FAVOUR?
The full written reasons for the ruling are yet to be published, but it seems UEFA have been undone to a large extent by handing out a strong sanction that was not supported by their own rules. "Many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations," as the governing body's own statement read on Monday.
Of course, not all of the period 2012-2016 is time-barred, which is where CAS' finding that the claims were "not established" comes in. Overall, it amounts to a resounding victory for City, especially considering what they stood to lose.
WHAT DID CITY STAND TO LOSE FINANCIALLY?
A conservative estimate landed somewhere in excess of £170m when considering broadcast payments alone, while drops in matchday revenue and potential reductions in sponsorship income could have pushed the figure towards £200m.
Such a financial hole would have made recourse to selling star names like Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling an obvious solution. Now, Guardiola can approach any squad overhaul designed to wrest control of the Premier League title back from Liverpool with few complications.
ANY OTHER GOOD NEWS FOR CITY?
Yes. The Premier League's profit and sustainability rules are basically a more lenient version of FFP, allowing losses of up to £105m over three seasons. If UEFA's findings against City had been upheld, this might have become problematic.
Similarly, section J.7 of the Premier League handbook states any team found to have provided a "false statement" with regards to applications to take part in UEFA competitions is liable for punishment. A fine or a points deduction are among the options on the table for that but, again, this is something City no longer have to worry about.
IS FFP DEAD?
UEFA thinks not. "Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA [European Club Association] remain committed to its principles," it said. However, a tightening or reformatting of the regulations feels likely after what amounts to a damaging public defeat.
CAN UEFA APPEAL?
Yes, to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, although the chances of overturning the punishment would be very slim and rely upon proving a procedural error on the part of CAS.