Manchester City’s CAS battle has begun

Manchester City’s appeal against UEFA over their pending two-year Champions League ban has finally reached CAS, albeit under highly secretive circumstances.

Now in the second day of a three-day legal battle against UEFA in CAS, word is quiet from the frontline as star lawyer Lord David Pannick QC attempts to reverse Manchester City’s punishment in a landmark decision for European football.

Virtual meetings have managed to keep the three-judge CAS panel secret, which will prove to be a huge deciding factor in the case. Moreover, while UEFA’s Financial Fair Play policy exists on shaky legal ground, a total reversal of UEFA’s decision would inevitably have huge ramifications for UEFA as a regulatory body. In my view, such a reduction seems unlikely unless City truly do possess the indisputable exonerating evidence they claim to have.

The club will also dispute the punishment on grounds of procedural unfairness, evident by the club’s initial plan to appeal the investigation even before UEFA released its final verdict.

I personally believe a reduction to a one-year ban is CAS’ most logical choice to play the middle and not completely side with either City or UEFA. This case is far from clear cut, with both sides having serious questions to answer and bringing top legal teams to the table. UEFA have never issued a punishment of this magnitude, and history is on City’s side given AC Milan and PSG’s ability to skirt FFP danger in the past.

In the event of a total UEFA victory however, they further prove the point that FFP is not the altruistic salary cap it claims to be, but rather a punishment or limitation intended to protect the historically successful elite. Should that happen, City still have the option to litigate further in a traditional court setting, which could drag the process out for years. Again, total victory for either side is unlikely in my view, but an upholding of the ban is more likely than a complete reversal given the negative press the latter would receive.