Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City given two-year European ban over financial fair-play breaches

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Updated 14 February 2020

Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City given two-year European ban over financial fair-play breaches

  • The ruling, if upheld, would mean Pep Guardiola's side would not be able to compete in the 2020-21 Champions League
  • UEFA's FFP rules are designed to prevent clubs receiving unlimited amounts of money

MANCHESTER: Abu Dhabi-owned English champions Manchester City have been banned from European competition for the next two seasons and fined €30 million ($32.53 million) by European soccer's governing body UEFA after an investigation into alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

UEFA said in a statement that City had committed "serious breaches" of the rules while the Premier League club swiftly said on their website https://www.mancity.com/news/club-news/club-news/2020/february/mancheste... that they will appeal the decision to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The ruling, if upheld, would mean Pep Guardiola's side would not be able to compete in the 2020-21 Champions League should they again qualify for Europe's top club competition. They would also be banned from European competition in the 2021-22 season.

An absence from continental action would have a significant impact on the club's revenue as well as their prestige.

UEFA's FFP rules are designed to prevent clubs receiving unlimited amounts of money through inflated sponsorship deals with organisations related to the owners.

The Adjudicatory Chamber of UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) said City had broken the rules by "overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016" and added that the club "failed to cooperate in the investigation".

But City, who have denied any wrongdoing, said in a strongly worded response that they will fight the decision.

"Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA. With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity," the club said.

Describing themselves as "disappointed but not surprised" by the decision, City took aim at the investigation process.

"In December 2018, the UEFA Chief Investigator publicly previewed the outcome and sanction he intended to be delivered to Manchester City, before any investigation had even begun.

"The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked UEFA process he oversaw has meant that there was little doubt in the result that he would deliver. The Club has formally complained to the UEFA Disciplinary body, a complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling."

City are currently second in the Premier League and face Real Madrid in the last 16 of this season's Champions League.

UEFA had opened an investigation into City in March 2019 after German publication Der Spiegel alleged that the club’s Abu Dhabi owners had inflated sponsorship agreements to comply with FFP requirements.

The Abu Dhabi United Group, the investment vehicle owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, is the majority owner of the City Football Group, with a stake of around 77%.

The City Football Group includes the Manchester club and owns or part-owns New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, Girona FC in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu FC in China.


Tottenham look to seize on Chelsea’s Premier League slump

Updated 21 February 2020

Tottenham look to seize on Chelsea’s Premier League slump

LONDON: Jose Mourinho had almost reached the end of his lament about the current situation facing his weary Tottenham players when he turned his attention to their next Premier League game against a team he knows so well.

“The Chelsea players were watching this game on TV,” Mourinho said after Tottenham’s 1-0 home loss to Leipzig in the Champions League, “with nice sparkling water, with lemons and biscuits, enjoying the game.”

If only the outlook at Chelsea were so rosy.

Indeed, recent results suggest the predicament of Mourinho’s old club is more concerning than Tottenham’s.

Chelsea, somehow, find themselves still holding onto fourth place in the league heading into Saturday’s London derby against their nearest rivals in the race for Champions League qualification. That’s despite collecting only 15 points from its last 14 games, a dire run stretching back to the end of November.

At that time, Chelsea were on a six-match winning streak — its best since the team’s title-winning season of 2016-17 — and wasn’t too far behind Liverpool, the current runaway leader. Youngsters like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori were regular starters, given their opportunity by an up-and-coming manager in Frank Lampard who is eager to promote youth. US winger Christian Pulisic was in his best form since his move from
Borussia Dortmund.

Fast forward three months and injuries are starting to bite, the kids are starting to feel the pace in a grueling season, and Lampard — a bright, eloquent and engaging manager — has been grumbling about the club’s failure to add numbers to the squad in January and his players’
wastefulness in front of goal.

“I must sound like a broken record,” a clearly frustrated Lampard said after seeing Chelsea get picked off in a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United on Monday.

Lampard’s main gripe is the team’s inability to finish off chances, which has become more pronounced with Abraham — a scorer of 13 league goals this season — currently out injured.

With Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic also missing against United, Lampard played a front three of Willian, Michy Batshuayi and Pedro Rodriguez — a throwback to a few years ago and an era Chelsea fans probably thought they’d seen the back of.

Key midfielder N’Golo Kante joined Abraham on the injury list after going off early against United, while Lampard is still playing 38-year-old Willy Caballero in goal after dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga — signed in 2018 as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.

It’s an uncertain period for Lampard, who is still a rookie in managerial terms, and Chelsea’s recent slump has seen as many as seven teams move within seven points or closer in the standings.

In that three-month period, Tottenham have won 29 points — a haul second only to Liverpool. That coincided exactly with Mourinho taking over as manager from Mauricio Pochettino.

The issue, now, is whether Spurs can keep it up, and Mourinho clearly has his doubts. With attackers Son Heung-min and Harry Kane out potentially for the rest of the season, Mourinho likened his team to someone “going to fight with a gun without bullets.”

Amid a hectic schedule that has seen his team play two FA Cup replays since the turn of the year, Mourinho said he has been forced to start with the same group of players for matches every three of four days. Erik Lamela and Tanguy Ndombele came off the bench against Leipzig having barely trained.

“I try to manage the pieces that we had,” he said.

Throw in the fact that Tottenham has a tight turnaround after the Leipzig match — Wednesday night to Saturday lunchtime — and Mourinho will feel he has genuine cause for grievance.

Yet, he is managing to scramble together results and a win at Stamford Bridge, where he previously enjoyed two separate trophy-winning spells as coach and was once revered, would see Tottenham climb above Chelsea.

Outmanoeuvring Mourinho, his former coach, in a 2-0 win at Tottenham in December was one of the few bright spots for Lampard in recent months. 

Doing so again would give him and Chelsea some much-needed breathing space in what is suddenly a bunched chase for Champions League qualification.