Man City face Premier League expulsion threat after more than 100 breaches of financial rules
Manchester City are facing the threat of relegation from the top flight after being charged by the Premier League with more than 100 alleged breaches of its financial regulations.
The Premier League champions were on Monday hit by an astonishing catalogue of charges covering 14 seasons from 2009-10 to the current campaign which, if proven, would amount to one of the biggest scandals in English football history.
The bombshell revelations follow a four-year investigation by the Premier League that has now culminated in the club being charged with allegedly breaching 115 regulations. City could face an unprecedented range of punishments including a suspension, points deductions, sweeping fines and the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the league.
An independent disciplinary committee - which is set to be selected and could yet be chaired by Murray Rosen KC - will hear the charges in private. No timescale has been announced by the Premier League but an executive at one top flight club told Telegraph Sport there was an “eagerness” for an outcome before the end of the season.
City were banned for two years from European competition by Uefa in 2020 for alleged breaches of their Financial Fair Play rules but the club successfully overturned that suspension in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas). However, there will not be an option for City to appeal to Cas against any Premier League sanctions as the European court is not recognised by the clubs. Instead, City would have to pursue options via London law courts.
One of the Premier League clubs outside the so-called Big Six said they welcomed the charges against City. Of the prospect of the club being expelled from the league, the senior executive said: “It’s not something we will lobby for but, if they’re guilty, it’s certainly not something we would oppose.”
Stefan Borson, a lawyer and former financial adviser to City, says the case includes the “strongest allegations imaginable” of financial doping. “Alarmist or not, the sheer extent of the PL charges are at a level that IF found proven, must lead to relegation,” he tweeted.
In a statement released on Monday morning, the Premier League said: “The Premier League confirms that it has today referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club to a commission.”
The Premier League first opened its investigation into City in March 2019 and the scale of the alleged breaches is eye-watering. The charges relating to financial reporting span nine seasons from 2009/10 to 2017/18. Additionally, City have been charged with not cooperating with the investigation and not handing over documents as required over a five-season period from 2018/19 to this season.
Some of the charges also pertain to the club allegedly failing to provide full details around their former manager Roberto Mancini’s pay between 2009 and 2013 and not providing “full details of player remuneration in its relevant contracts with players” from 2010/11 to 2015/16, both of which are required under Premier League rules.
City expressed “surprise” at the Premier League’s move and said it would welcome the commission’s hearing as a chance to put allegations of financial impropriety that have dogged the club for years “to rest once and for all”. The club said there was a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.”
‘This is tactical’
Senior sources at City told Telegraph Sport they believe the timing of the Premier League’s announcement was no coincidence with a long-awaited government white paper on football governance due imminently.
Insiders at the club feel it is part of a strategy by the Premier League to show they are capable of adequate governance amid calls for an independent football regulator. “This is tactical,” one source said. Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, also questioned the timing of the Premier League's announcement and said there had been a clear political advantage in doing so.
Within an hour of the Premier League’s statement, it was confirmed that proposed changes to football regulation had been delayed by a fortnight and that the white paper would not be published until February 20 at the earliest.
Eyebrows were also raised at City that the club were not given any warning of the charges until a courier delivered legal papers from the Premier League to the Etihad Stadium. It was around the same time that Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, was first informed of the news just as it was about to go live on the Premier League’s website. There was said to be some disquiet at the club that elements of the media became aware of the information before them.
Premier League times announcement to perfection as regulator looms
By Tom Morgan
It had taken the Premier League four years and two months to break their silence on investigations into Manchester City's alleged financial doping. Then, at around 10am on Monday, top tier executives finally fired their shots - just 48 hours before the Prime Minister was due to wrest armoury from their grasp.
An announced chargesheet of 115 allegations may eventually expel the club, but the overdue conclusion of the probe could also help preserve the wider competition's status quo. Within an hour, Whitehall sources confirmed to Telegraph Sport that the announcement of a new regulator for football had been pushed back a fortnight.
The plan, until Monday morning, had been for the Prime Minister to launch the long-awaited white paper on Wednesday. Rishi Sunak was said to be due to appear at AFC Wimbledon to launch a vision that has been bounced around in Government since the failed breakaways of Project Big Picture and the European Super League. The conclusion of the City investigation was an exquisite chance for the Premier League to show it has teeth after all.
Inevitably, City supporters reacted with scepticism to the timing of the announcement. However, Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, agreed with the club's point that there was a clear political advantage to announcing the conclusion of the inquiry this week.
"The Premier League is putting this out as part of their attempt to ensure that an independent regulator doesn't go ahead," Maguire told Telegraph Sport. "But in my view, the opposite is true. The fact that it's taken them four years of investigation to make charges. That shows they don't have the capacity, they don't have the skill sets to regulate their own. And therefore it'd be better if there was an independent regulator."
Insiders at the club also said they felt it is part of a strategy by the Premier League to show they are capable of adequate governance. “This is tactical,” one source said. "Manchester City FC is surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with," City added in a statement.
Those claims will be flatly rejected by executives at the Premier League's Paddington HQ. Sources close to the process point out that the charges levelled against CIty are an extensive piece of work. It is suggested the charges would have been published six months ago if the intent was to influence the Government or see off a regulator.
The working week had barely begun when plans for City and the Government regulator were sent into a tailspin. But while the wording of the white paper launch may now change, Whitehall sources maintained there are no plans to water down legislation.
Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the Government should have gone ahead regardless. “We urgently need proper football regulation," she said. "Bury has already collapsed. Many other clubs have been pushed to the brink. Labour supports the fan-led review recommendations, which should be implemented in full. The government has already taken over a year since its publication to decide to adopt the recommendations."
Tracey Crouch MP, the chair of a review panel, last year sent the Culture Secretary an interim report in which she planned to grant supporters a ‘golden share’, giving them a veto over the sale of a team’s stadium and changes to a side’s name, badge and kit colours. Powers to block any future European Super League and police club ownership will be cited by the Prime Minister when the white paper is published in two weeks.
Crouch, a former sports minister, is also among those frustrated by delays, which were initially prompted by changes in leadership within the Conservative party last year. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live last week, the report's architect said: "It is frustrating that we've had this delay. But I am still confident that even if there are things missing in the white paper that were in the review I still think they will come over time because I think that's the way that football is going anyway. The prize is the independent regulator and we have got that."
The Premier League's charges against City will be just one of a host of examples in which the competition might cite to show ministers they are capable of keeping the right safeguards in place, however. Behind the scenes, the league has been working with human rights groups to add new measures to its Owners' and Directors' tests in the wake of the controversial Newcastle takeover by Saudi Arabia. There is also hope that the so-called New Deal for Football offer to the EFL will help restore harmony across the pyramid.
But, in terms of limelight-stealing moves, none will be as stark as the agenda-topping decision to drop charges on City this week.