Manchester City’s Premier League charges: the key questions answered
What are Manchester City accused of?
The Premier League has charged the champions with 101 breaches of competition rules. The charges cover four areas: a failure to give “a true and fair view of the club’s financial position”; a failure to “include full details” of player and manager remuneration; breaches of national and continental financial fair play regulations; and a failure to “cooperate with, and assist, the Premier League in its investigations”. These charges will be heard by an independent commission.
Do we have specifics?
The Premier League has published only an extended charge sheet, with no details. The timeframes, however, suggest the charges line up with claims already in the public domain. First, that City inflated the value of sponsorship deals as a means of channelling more money from their owners into the club. Second, that secret payments were made to manager Roberto Mancini and to the agent of Yaya Touré. Third, that these acts left the club in breach of financial rules. Fourth, that when the Premier League sought to investigate the claims City obstructed its progress. City have always vociferously denied any wrongdoing.
Related: Premier League charges Manchester City over alleged financial rule breaches
Why do the charges matter?
There has never been anything like this in English football. In the 13 seasons covered by the various charges, starting in 2009-10, City have won the Premier League and League Cup six times and the FA Cup twice. They have played in the Champions League each season starting with 2011-12. They, as much as any other club, have been behind the growing global success of the Premier League and the increasingly lavish spending on players (City’s squad is estimated to be worth £1bn). The effects of this have, according to who you listen to, affected competitive balance at home and across Europe, led to the development of a breakaway Super League (of which City were part) and hastened the need for independent regulation of the English game. Last week, the president of Spain’s La Liga, Javier Tebas, called the English top flight a “doped market”. If City are judged to have found success while breaking the rules, the game will come under greater scrutiny.
What will happen next?
Murray Rosen KC has been asked by the Premier League to select a three-person panel to form the commission that will hear the charges. At least one member of this panel must be a financial expert. The hearings will be conducted in private and there is no timeframe on how long the commission will take to complete its work. Legal experts imagine a matter of months. After the commission publishes its verdict, either side can go to an appeals panel and, after that, arbitration. If all that fails, a party could try to find an argument to take to the high court. Under the rules of association of the Premier League there is no opportunity for either party to go to the court of arbitration for sport (Cas) in Switzerland.
If guilty, what could the punishment be?
According to rule W.51 in the Premier League handbook, a commission has the ability to levy a wide range of sanctions against any club found to have broken the rules. These include fines, the docking of points and suspension, or even expulsion, from the competition. In fact, sub-clause W.51.7 states that the commission can “impose upon the respondent any combination of the foregoing or such other penalty as it shall think fit”. That even leaves open the possibility of City being stripped of their titles.
What do City say?
The champions are bullish. On the record the club says it “welcomes the review” and the opportunity to “impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position”. Club sources also suspect political manoeuvring by the Premier League in bringing the charges, before the likely announcement by the government of a regulator, and say City were not informed of the charges before they were published online. Finally, they point to the fact that the club has been under investigation for breaching financial rules before, and was cleared.
Haven’t we been here before with Uefa?
In 2020 Uefa suspended City from the Champions League for two years for “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts” between 2012 and 2016, part of the same period covered by the Premier League’s charges. However, that sanction was overturned on appeal by Cas.
In its ruling Cas found that a number of the claims brought by Uefa had fallen outside a five-year “time bar” which prevented historical charges. But the tribunal also argued that one key charge over payments relating to sponsorship by Etihad Airlines was “not established”. The panel said Uefa had submitted insufficient evidence and that, if its case had been correct, then City employees who had given testimony to Cas would have had to have been lying.
Is this all the result of ‘Football Leaks’?
Uefa found City in breach of its financial fair play regulations in 2014 but reached a settlement under which City paid a €20m fine and submitted reduced squads to the Champions League. The revisiting of alleged irregularities came after the document hack known as “Football Leaks” in 2015 exposed what appear to be official documents and email communication from inside City, alongside a number of other football organisations. These documents are understood to also have prompted the Premier League’s investigation, a four-year process which has brought these charges. City have previously described Football Leaks as an “orchestrated campaign” and part of “an endless attempt to damage us”.