When Manchester City Win At CAS

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin reacts during a press conference following a meeting of the executive committee at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, Switzerland on December 4, 2019. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin reacts during a press conference following a meeting of the executive committee at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, Switzerland on December 4, 2019. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) /

Manchester City were banned from European competition for 2 years on Friday and the Club announced they were not surprised that UEFA had imposed that punishment, having in effect announced it back in 2018, prior to any investigation even commencing.

In fact Manchester City made clear their intention was to lodge an appeal at the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and looked forward to having their case heard in an impartial Court of Law. That appeal has to be received within 10 days, but how long the CAS will take to reach a verdict will be anyone’s guess.

There are some suggestions CAS will deliver a verdict before the end of the Summer, allowing the 2020/21 Champions League to start as planned. That could well be wishful thinking to have a complex case resolved within 3 months, especially where there are entrenched positions and millions of pounds at stake.

Even if CAS are able to rule prior to the new season starting that is likely to be late in July – to give them maximum time to consider the case, and that means that PL clubs in 5th position will not know what competition they will play in next season.

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That uncertainty in sport is probably not tenable so I believe the ban imposed upon Manchester City will be suspended pending the verdict. The alternative is UEFA ignore that principle of natural justice – they have ignored others already – and maintain an immediate ban. That appears a risky strategy despite some bullish comments from UEFA in the press.

Should UEFA do that then City may make a separate legal case not only seeking damages but perhaps even the suspension of the competition on grounds of fairness. That would certainly at the very least throw shade upon the whole sustainability of the Champions League.

On the face of it City appear to have a strong case against UEFA in respect of the ban. There are several different avenues of attack for City and should any of them be found in their favour, it is likely the whole punishment imposed of a 2 year ban would be thrown out. And any such finding which absolves City allows City free to pursue a separate claim of defamation against UEFA, which if they are found to have acted improperly would be difficult to defend.

Make no mistake, a clear win for City at CAS would not just spell the end for Ceferin but also UEFA in its current guise.

Broadly speaking the first argument by City would be about admission of hacked and stolen documents. Should City get that evidence struck out then UEFA would have to base their case on information not in Der Spiegel. Of course, there may well be good legal precedent to allow the evidence to stand not least of which would be it is in the public domain already and of significant public interest.

That would allow a secondary argument from the City legal team to explain how the emails were stolen and have been used subjectively and out of context. City would try and prove for instance that the bullish claims in the emails were actually jokes or subsequently changed. Or that the Royal Highness referred to as filling the coffers of City is not actually the owner of City, Sheikh Mansour, but the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and that emails have been misinterpreted.

Next level of attack for City would be about proving the financials declared are accurate. That may be easy to do given the statements from some of the sponsors already.

Next level of legal attack by City would be about the failure of UEFA to follow their own processes and policies. There are enough indications around that procedure may not have been followed by UEFA.

Finally, City would make reference to the prejudice apparent from the outset in the UEFA case. They would point to how the finding was announced before the investigation had begun. They would point to the internal leaks to the media which undermined City’s position and crucially they would highlight how PSG have been treated differently to City since having their Chief Executive on the UEFA board.

Those are the types of hurdles which UEFA would need to clear in order to impose the punishment legally which they have already meted out. From my view as a City fan, I am not sure that UEFA will be successful in navigating those challenges.

Although it is worth pointing out that the law sometimes delivers unintended consequences and seldom justice.

CAS have the option to dismiss the case brought by City, to arbitrate the punishment or to suggest the case against City is not proven.

City have indicated already that they believe in the strength of their case so strongly that should they not get the outcome they desire at CAS, they would take the matter into the Swiss legal court system. That would take years to resolve.

Right now City appear to be indicating that they do not just want the punishment reduced, they will not accept ANY punishment from UEFA in respect of these matters.

When Manchester City win at CAS, and I believe they will, quite how that leaves both Manchester City and UEFA is unclear. Manchester City may find themselves having re entry to the Champions League just as the format of the whole competition is about to change.

Cynics may even suggest that the driver behind this action by UEFA is to keep City away from the top table at the very moments the future of the elite competition is being decided.

Regardless, City may find that even victory against UEFA is hollow, that they are cold shouldered and excluded even more than before from the corridors of power, until a full regime change is effected at the highest adminstration levels of the game. The hope is that ultimately a victory by City at CAS would herald that.

The real danger though is that no one really knows what a victory for City would actually mean, so much of the debate is being focussed around an assumption that we will lose.

Right now City fans are appearing to be on their own against the collected might of the media, other fans, UEFA and other vested interests. City fans are being crowded out of the debate and categorised as ignorant trolls by many in the media who are happy to drive their own agendas against race, human rights and the biased support of their own football teams.

Too many fans are masquerading as football journalists these days, polluting and limiting legitimate debate. Click bait journalism and SEO driven agendas obscure real issues.

But what if us City fans are actually on the right side of this argument? What happens when the dust settles and it turns out that all those vested interests are in the wrong?