• September 30, 2020 7:03 am

Reporting From Delhi

City in shambles

ByShaunak Ghosh

Mar 16, 2020

Patriot discusses the reasons and implications of Manchester City’s two-year debarment from Champions League by the UEFA

IN AN unexpected announcement, UEFA banned Manchester City from European competition, most importantly the Champions League, for two seasons for breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules by misleading the governing body about its sponsorship revenues.

Here is the UEFA’s statement:

The Adjudicatory Chamber, having considered all the evidence, has found that Manchester City committed serious breaches of the Uefa Financial Fair Play Regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016.

The Adjudicatory Chamber has also found that in breach of the regulations, the club failed to cooperate in the investigation of this case by the CFCB.

FFP isn’t perfect, but the idea behind the rules is to make sure owners can’t pump money into clubs to cover losses, so a club only spends the money that it generates. Through leaked emails, first brought to light by German newspaper Der Spiegel, City reportedly tried to circumvent this system by having City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan — who is also Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family — fund most of the sponsorship deal that the club maintains with Etihad airlines, through the Abu Dhabi United Group.

The UEFA investigation began because of leaked documents and emails that City denounced as being taken out of context and illegally obtained. The man behind the leak was reported to be Rui Pinto, who has been charged with 147 criminal offences. According to City, Pinto’s history puts his credibility, and thus the nature of the documents, in question, though evidently not enough to excuse what UEFA has deemed to be a very serious violation of its rules.

The fact that the investigation was conducted by UEFA also drew City’s ire. The club has announced that it will appeal the decision.

Another surprising element, in this case, is the severity of the punishment. City has been punished by UEFA over FFP violations before, but only in the form of fines that were often suspended. A ban from the Champions League is severe. AC Milan was once banned from the Europa League for FFP violations, but that was quickly overturned.

Paris Saint-Germain managed to prevent a probe into their finances altogether. The closest to a case like this was Turkish club Bursaspor, which was banned from the Europa League in 2015. Not many people legitimately thought that UEFA would go that far against City, especially for two seasons.

The ban thwarts City’s organisational plan, which was built around conquering Europe. The Premier League’s fourth Champions League spot will now go to whoever finishes in fifth place in the Premier League (currently Sheffield) if City manages to finish in the top four. Even if City’s appeal is successful, it’s hard to see the entire ban being overturned.

So what happens when one of the biggest teams in the world is banned from the most prestigious club competition in Europe? Let’s start with their star coach, Pep Guardiola. Guardiola was recruited a few years ago by City bosses with the aim of bringing European glory. Having previously worked with Bayern Munich and Barcelona and having two Champions Leagues to his name, his main aim was to bring the elusive trophy to the Manchester City cabinet.

This is something that they have not won — winning this would mean that City could finally cement their place as one of the world’s most elite clubs. The  Blues have won four league titles ever since the takeover, two of them under Guardiola’s reign. So, winning the Champions League is something of a laser focus for the club. If the Champions League does miss the Etihad for two years, then this could very well signal the end of the Spanish manager.

Guardiola’s contract ends at the end of the season and this ban will in all probability force him out of the club. Clubs will be lining up to catch  hold of the manager, as he is one of the best in the business.

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City talks with Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho during the training session at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on February 27, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

As for the players, it will be difficult to keep them in the club too. Many players have joined City not only for the huge salary but also for the promise of glory — both domestic and European — that a club of this size promises.

Kevin De Bruyne, the Citizens’ best player in the team right now, has been heavily tipped for a move away from Etihad, maybe to somewhere like Barcelona, who strongly need a creative force in their team who can create goals. They both have the calibre and money to bring in someone of the Belgian’s star power and abilities.

City’s most experienced player in the squad, Sergio Aguero too will look to move out of the squad, having failed to win the Champions League even once. He is at the end of his career, and if he fails to win a CL medal in the upcoming few years, that laurel would forever elude him.

However, in spite of all this troubling news, the positive to come out of this is that City are now fighting a case against this ban at the Sports Arbitration Court, and if they win their ban might well be revoked. The chances are however slim.

What City should concentrate on now is the fact that they are still in the Champions League this year, and already leading Real Madrid 1-2 after their way leg match in the round of 16. This ban should act as a motivation for the Citizens to win the title this season, as they cant even compete in the next two years.