GENEVA (AP) – Manchester City successfully overturned its two-year ban from the Champions League on Monday in a surprising legal victory.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Cityâ€™s appeal against the UEFA ban, but imposed a 10 million euro ($11.3 million) fine on the club for failing to cooperate with independent investigators.
Some UEFA allegations accusing City of breaking finance rules dating back several years were â€œtime-barred,â€ the court said.
CAS plans to publish a detailed written verdict within days.
The decision by the three judges clears the team coached by Pep Guardiola to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season. The case does not affect Cityâ€™s place in this seasonâ€™s competition, which resumes next month.
City’s win guarantees tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season. It also protects against players leaving to seek Champions League action with another club.
Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester â€œno matter what happensâ€ in the courts.
â€œThe club welcomes the implications of todayâ€™s ruling as a validation of the clubâ€™s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,â€ City said in a statement.
UEFA punished Man City in February for â€œserious breachesâ€ of finance monitoring rules and failing to cooperate with investigators. The allegations included that City, owned by Abu Dhabiâ€™s royal family, misled UEFA over several years to meet financial integrity rules – known as Financial Fair Play – required to enter European club competitions.
City denied wrongdoing, and said it had â€œirrefutable evidenceâ€ the claims were not true.
â€œThe CAS award emphasized that most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the (UEFA club finance panel) were either not established or time-barred,â€ the court said.
City’s win will raise doubts about the future of the UEFAs Financial Fair Play program, created in 2009.
Man City joins Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in defeating UEFA at CAS in the past two years.
The urgent ruling came one month after a three-day hearing held by video link between Switzerland and England. A full verdict detailing the evidence, expert witness testimony and the judgesâ€™ reasons is unlikely to be published for at least several weeks.
UEFA-appointed investigators opened a case after leaked club emails and documents from City officials were published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. They were likely obtained by a hacker from Portugal.
The published evidence appeared to show City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hid the source of revenue linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi.
City never disputed the documents were authentic, but argued the evidence was stolen and reported out of context.
UEFA had previously signed off on Cityâ€™s submitted accounts since 2014. That year, UEFA fined City 20 million euros ($22.6 million) of its Champions League prize money in a first wave of assessments of European clubsâ€™ finances.
UEFA could choose to challenge the CAS ruling at Switzerlandâ€™s supreme court. Federal appeals in CAS cases rarely succeed and only consider narrow grounds of legal procedure.
UEFA decided to create the FFP system 11 years ago, following the global financial crisis, to monitor finances of 200-plus clubs which qualify each year for its competitions. Clubs must approach break-even on commercial income and spending on transfers and salaries. Sponsor deals linked to wealthy owners must be set at fair market rates.
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