It is clear that in recent months Manchester City’s attitude to UEFA has hardened and today it has been reported they have taken UEFA to Court.
Manchester City believe they have been the victims of a concerted campaign waged by an elite group of Clubs who have cajoled UEFA into taking action against City. City believe this campaign is designed to achieve two things – to diminish the achievements of Manchester City Football Club since the takeover by Sheik Mansour, and to create difficulties on the pitch by impacting on the ability of the team to remain competitive by putting off potential signings.
Part of this campaign has seen significant numbers of documents stolen from the hard drives of the CIty Football Group and revealed in Der Spiegel. City have always maintained the documents were stolen and are being maliciously used out of context. Following the stories in the Press last year, UEFA indicated they would consider reopening their original 2014 Financial Fair Play settlement, believing City may may have deliberately mislead the investigation.
Earlier this month UEFA announced they have in effect concluded their investigation and passed the issue to their adjudicatory chamber to consider a relevant sanction – and there has been much talk there will be a Champions League ban of at least 1 season imposed.
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City meanwhile have been furious, stating the investigation has been hostile, that they have provided evidence which has not been considered and have suggested the process being followed by UEFA is deeply flawed and biased.
The stance of City has significantly hardened in recent weeks and rather than waiting for the UEFA decision to be imposed, and to then appeal – City have decided they have so little faith left in the process being followed they have now taken their case to CAS – the Court for Arbitration in Sport. There has been no official statement from either City or CAS so right now there is no real detail about the nature of the case.
However, from the recent statements both by Manchester City and their Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak it can probably be surmised that City are alleging an abuse of process by UEFA, that it is a sham investigation driven to find an agreed outcome, where no counter evidence was considered. City would no doubt also point to both the “leaks” to the media from within the UEFA camp which appear highly prejudicial, and that the case was referred for sanction by UEFA on the last day possible (a 5 year time limit was due to expire). City would no doubt allege this action was in haste and accounted for the failure to consider all available evidence.
The ball is now in the hands of CAS – who could decide they do not have sufficient jurisdiction because the process is not concluded by UEFA or they could rule against UEFA. Either way, a sanction could still be imposed by UEFA and would no doubt result in a further appeal by City to CAS. It si worth remembering here that CAS have ruled against UEFA on a number of occasions but have also dismissed cases against UEFa too.
If the real objective is to diminish the reputation of City then this is all likely to keep the bad news about FFP firmly in the public eye for months and months as the slow wheels of justice begin to turn. If I was feeling like a real cynic then I would suggest that having the UEFA case dismissed on a technicality at CAS would be the ideal solution for any Clubs who may be behind the campaign. Such an outcome will put out the fire, but leave the smell of smoke heavy in the air.
The problem herein is that as we approach a legal resolution the arguments will become less and less about right and wrong, but more and more about matters of legal detail. The end of this – even if it is a City victory may never feel like a victory. There may be no grand acquittal, but rather just a failure to establish adequate guilt. There may be little to celebrate as the dust settles because the real damage may be done.