In a stunning decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport have completely exonerated Manchester City and lifted their two-year UEFA Champions League ban.
After months of drama, Manchester City’s claims of irrefutable evidence against UEFA’s claims of breaches of Financial Fair Play was proven to be true after the club took a complete victory at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and will be in the Champions League next season.
UEFA chose to fight its biggest battle as a regulatory body by attempting to make an example of City with one of the harshest and most highly publicized punishments in history. However, it chose to do so on grounds of insufficient evidence, and in my view, let anger against City cloud its judgement when it chose this fight, which will inevitably carry massive implications in the years to come. City were fined just under £9 million, a reduction from UEFA’s initial £20 million figure for failure to cooperate with the investigation, which has nothing to do with the nature of UEFA’s major allegations.
This is truly a case study in the concept of the presumption of innocence, especially from a media standpoint. Nearly everyone assumed Manchester City guilty before they ever got the opportunity to present their evidence before a neutral body. UEFA serves as judge, jury, and executioner in its FFP process, yet very few media members or opposing supporters even seemed to consider the idea that an organization with a corrupt history truly could have an agenda against a new-money team.
Simply by nature, if UEFA even had a semblance of a solid case, they should have easily won. In the setting of an appellate court, the burden was on Manchester City to prove why UEFA could not ban them from a UEFA-organized competition for the alleged violations. UEFA rushed into this battle with an unprecedented punishment and knowingly created a full wave of public support who refused to look deeper than what the governing body told them.
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FFP is an inherently flawed policy that caps the growth potential of clubs with new investment while giving those with established fanbases and massive revenue free reign to spend as they desire. This is not the death of FFP, as so many who simply refuse to accept the reality that City were innocent will now choose to decry, as it will continue, but if it is not reformed in the coming years, UEFA must tread more lightly in its enforcement.
However, from a Manchester City perspective, the board should be commended by fans for handling the situation calmly and being honest with supporters. They knew the very nature of UEFA’s investigation was flawed and that they had exculpatory evidence, yet they chose to have their day in court and prevail. Here’s to new summer signings and the continuation of Champions League football at the Etihad Stadium.