Titles stripped, relegation - Man City 115 charges verdict as Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham wait

Manchester City face 115 allegations of financial wrongdoing, all of which the club denies

At some stage this year, Manchester City’s Premier League financial case versus the Premier League will begin as Arsenal and the rest of the Premier League watches on. It follows a year of unprecedented drama.

League chief Richard Masters has failed to disclose exactly when the hearing will start and there is little known about how long it will last, nor many other details besides the 115 allegations tabled against City, all of which the club strongly denies. It has in some quarters been described as the 'trial of the century.'

The charges, which relate to the timeframe between 2009 and 2018, allege illicit financing and unco-operation. This is not the first time City have faced charges of this nature. UEFA initially banned them from European competition for two years over a “serious breach” before the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the verdict in 2020.

In January of this year, UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin insisted the body was right to charge the club with financial breaches, stating: "We wouldn’t decide if we didn’t think we were right."

He continued: "As a trial lawyer for 25 years, I know that, sometimes, you win a case that you are sure you will lose. And, sometimes, you lose a case when you’re sure. You just simply have to respect in a serious democracy the decision of the court."

The potential punishments City could be handed if found guilty of the charges are unclear given it’s an unprecedented case but it is thought that relegation and the stripping of titles could be on the table as well as enormous fines and possibly even relegation.

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The stripping of titles would open up the possibility of Liverpool and Manchester United being retrospectively handed league titles as Arsenal watch on amid their recent battles for the crown. Here, writers have offered their thoughts on the prospect.

Dave Powell

Were Manchester City to be found guilty of the 115 charges levelled against them, even just some of them, then the consequences would be catastrophic. Relegation, titles stripped, the prospect of legal action from other clubs who will feel that they were unfairly denied prize money due to City’s success, it would be a hammer blow to not only City but the English game itself.

City have been robust in their defence, and it is likely that they feel emboldened in that stance, for if they were found to be guilty of financial irregularities over the course of a decade then it would mean a web of deceit and lies involving countless people over several years. It is on the Premier League to prove its case and present cogent evidence.

The Premier League want to be seen to have teeth; that it has the ability to self-regulate. With the looming independent regulator coming down the tracks, something the Premier League doesn’t want, they want to show they can do it themselves.

The Premier League doesn’t want a Premier League without Man City. Why would it? It wants inward investment, it wants its clubs to push the envelope when it comes to innovation (which City do), and it wants its teams to be successful in international competitions, bringing the world’s best players and coaches to what the Premier League believes is the world’s best league.

They obviously feel that City have a case to answer, a significant one at that, but it is hard to envisage the kind of doomsday scenario for the Premier League champions in waiting that would signal the end of its dynasty.

Will there be some level of punishment? It’s hard to make that call, but any wrongdoing, given a precedent has been set with punishments for Everton and Nottingham Forest for PSR breaches (this is not the same), would have to be dealt with strongly. Transfer embargoes? Points deductions? Maybe.

But it would have to be a slamdunk case for the Premier League to bring about the kind of punishment that has been suggested in some quarters. Do the Premier League really have the appetite for that when they know it could damage their own product?

Tom Canton

The idea that Manchester City could be docked points or have titles stripped seems wild from a sporting and media perspective but I cannot help but feeling a sense of little more than a long sigh in response to it. Financial restrictions have been put in place in the Premier League and Europe far too late, the horse has bolted.

Whatever ramifications, if any, coming the way of Man City cannot erase what has already happened. Arsenal, for instance, have been playing catch up for years and are only where they are now because their spending, unlike Chelsea and Manchester United for example, has been shrewd and calculated and nearly perfect.

City will still have an amazing side and for at least one more season the world’s best manager. Winning leagues isn’t just about lifting the trophy, it's the entire journey and rollercoaster of a season that builds to it with the satisfaction that follows knowing it was earned.

I remain steadfast in my hope that the right decision is made and that the truth emerges. But for retrospective rewarding of silverware or accolades, I think I’d rather it all be made void at this stage.

Lee Wilmot

Let's be brutally honest here, it's going to take years for the Premier League to complete a trial over Man City's 115 FFP breaches and then even longer to get a full and final outcome after the inevitable appeal from Pep Guardiola's side. Guardiola probably won't even be at the club by the time everything is sorted out, such is the longevity that this process will take.

Should City be relegated from the Premier League if they are found guilty? Probably, in all honesty. If you're getting six-point deductions for breaching PSR rules, the punishment should match the crime and City should face serious consequences.

Do I think it will happen? No. The Premier League may force something like a 30-point deduction on them and a multi-million pound fine - which they will obviously have no trouble paying. What's one season down the bottom of the table - they will have no issue recouping 30 points and staying up, let's be fair?

Stripping them of trophies? I'm not sure what purpose that serves. Ultimately, I don't think anything the Premier League does will have a lasting impression on Manchester City in the long run. A points deduction and a fine and everything will be swept under the carpet.

Isaac Johnson

This will likely be a battle won by attrition, whichever party comes out on top. This legal jousting will not be done in a quick swoop by sundown but a marathon fencing match that could last years - and that’s before any probable appeal, by whichever side, is lodged.

The Premier League has a problem either way. If it loses then the integrity of its own judgement will be cast into doubt and only further enthuse support for an independent regulator. If it wins, then its own competition has been brought into disrepute.

That would lead to questions about why it took so long to act and the fact that the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal missed out on memorable days, moments and seasons because of it.

Because if City are found guilty, then titles must be stripped or else it signals that clubs can get away with illegally filling their trophy cabinet without risk of them being taken away. Perhaps the more ambiguous debate is whether Man United and Liverpool should be handed those titles.

Ultimately, it will stockpile their numbers but it wouldn’t hit the same. At the end of the day they were not the team to compile the most points, no matter how it was formed away from the field.

Meanwhile, it’s more likely that City get handed a hefty points deduction rather than automatic relegation. Doing the latter would only further harm it’s own global image and reputation, albeit few would hardly call this a valid reason not to.

Tom Coley

Does anybody really want to be awarded a title retrospectively? It may be a way of ridding Manchester City of their achievements but it would be a hollow victory for those sides benefitting. Ultimately, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal (so far) have been unable to topple Pep Guardiola and his team.

Right now there is just so much uncertainty around the trial and what could come. Making fully formed opinions of it all is a bit moot. City could be found guilty, in which case the landmark battle between club and organisation would have huge ramifications, but similarly, if they are innocent it will make a lot of the protestations look quite silly.

Put it this way. Should Guardiola go on to lift the trophy again this year it's not going to be on the minds of the Arsenal players. They will have been outdone and outperformed in the league by fellow professionals. It really doesn't seem like the sort of thing that will be taking up much space in their thoughts.

Sure, should any of the allegations of effective cheating be judged to be true then a punishment is needed. We're talking the mother of all fines, transfer ban territory, points deductions to blow PSRs current standards out of the water. But until then it's speculation and uncertainty.

Stephen Killen

For the Premier League, there has been no bigger elephant in the room than the alleged financial breaches made by Manchester City. Some of these charges date back more than 10 years, and as mentioned by colleagues, this will not be solved overnight.

While a kangaroo court has already seemingly heard the case against City, this ordeal - as well as cases for Everton and Nottingham Forest - has been nothing short of ridiculous.

Points deductions are a deterrent and have been implemented across the football pyramid for various breaches for many years, but what impact has that had? More and more cases continue to rise to the surface.

In this case, anything severe like relegations, and so on, are too little, too late. Needless to say, this doesn’t get Manchester City off the hook.

They need to be punished if found guilty but an example and a precedent must be set. Whether disqualifying them from certain competitions is an option, so be it but stripping them of success doesn't soften the blow for those teams who missed out.

However, to avoid similar cases going forward, severe implications and united sanctions are a must, not just for teams 'outside of the big six' in order to protect the integrity of the game.

Isaac Seelochan

Awarding titles in retrospect would be a deeply unsatisfying outcome if Man City are found guilty. There would be little to no joy for any side who finished runners-up to City, particularly when most of those clubs fans have long accepted that they did not win.

Seeing your team celebrate as they raise a trophy is one of the most satisfying experiences for a football fan and that cannot be replicated over something that happened years ago.

If found guilty, I wouldn't strip City of any title either as having null and void seasons when it comes to trophy winners wouldn't sit right with me. Instead, a hefty points deduction which leads to multiple relegations and a spending cap for every season they are found to have breached would be more suitable in my view.

Many City fans will have seen their team play in League Two but limiting how much money they can spend would severely hamper them and see almost all of their stars leave. Naturally, the club's fanbase would also diminish. The Premier League is the world's best competition and many supporters have grown used to seeing them compete for top-flight glory. Without this, many will lose interest.

City strongly deny all 115 charges and will contest them. If they are found guilty, though, then the strongest punishment ever handed down to a club in English football must be dished out.