If you’re loaded, just do what you want - that’s the message today’s CAS Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling provides this morning on Manchester City’s appeal against their 30m euros fine and two-year European ban.
The Citizens weren’t completely exonerated, a 10m euros fine remains in place due to the club’s attempts to obstruct UEFA’s investigation. The club maintain though they had nothing to hide, their lack of co-operation being particularly linked to an objection around the process attached to the investigation.
So football will go on being football. The situation will perpetuate, all the big clubs will disregard FFP, the rich will get richer and the poor... well, they will see an already unbridgeable gap between the classes extend still further.
UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP) were initially established to prevent professional football clubs spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success and in doing so getting into financial problems which might threaten their long-term survival.
This hardly applies to City, as no matter their spending, they are always likely to be bailed out by immensely wealthy owners investing in various creative ways to inject more finances into the club. The issue will arise only should the owners walk away (very unlikely, yet not impossible), hence the reason why the regulations should apply to the obscenely rich as to the not so fortunate.
In delivering the ruling on Monday, CAS said City did “fail to cooperate with UEFA authorities” but overturned the decision by UEFA’s club financial control body (CFCB) to ban them.
City said the decision was “validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present”.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered,” City added.
It added that in clearing City of the more serious charges surrounding “dishonest concealment” of sponsorship deals it was “not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in UEFA’s club competitions” for the lesser charge of “obstructing the CFCB’s investigations”.
On reducing the fine, CAS said that, while it considered “the importance of the co-operation of clubs in investigations conducted by the CFCB” and Manchester City’s “disregard of such principle and its obstruction of the investigations”, the CAA panel “considered it appropriate to reduce UEFA’s initial fine by two-thirds”.
It added: “The final award with reasons will be published on the CAS website in a few days.”
UEFA said it noted there was “insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred”.
After the two-year ban was announced in February, City said the process that led to it was “flawed” and “prejudicial” and immediately announced their intention to appeal.
They alleged they had been the victim of illegal moves by people who had the express intention of damaging their reputation. City also believed the CFCB was not independent and ended up being distrustful of it, partly because of the amount of secretive information the club felt was leaked to the media.
City are off the hook. UEFA’s FFP is in tatters, credibility out the window. Hard to see how it can survive after this. It’s a model that may well work for football away from the very top level, but with filthy rich clubs like City and a few notable others, governing bodies seem unable to enforce their own rules. Remember CAS did not say that City is not guilty. Instead the wording read, “insufficient conclusive evidence” to uphold all of UEFA’s conclusions, not ‘no evidence’.
The Premier League has its own FFP regulations too. The English body’s silence throughout this saga is also quite deafening. Just another organization simply unable to enforce its own rules it seems...
Modern-day, stinking-rich football - where will it all end?