We are just two weeks away from Manchester City’s return to football. Before games return to the Premier League, though, City must first face a much stronger opponent. On June 8, they return to the courtroom for their appeal hearing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over their two-year ban from UEFA competition.
Manchester City’s Return Starts in Court
The Case Facts
UEFA gave City a ban for allegedly lying about financial payments from the sponsors. Their title sponsor, Etihad, was reported to pay £67.5 million in sponsorship payments. But a report by Football Leaks alleges that they only paid £8 million and the rest was covered by the Abu Dhabi United Group, the owners of both City and Etihad.
Under UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) guidelines this has been seen as a second offence, as City were already fined almost £50 million for a violation made prior to this case. That and the brazen nature with which the club approached FFP is what led to UEFA’s very serious two-year ban.
The Appeal Hearing
Manchester City and UEFA will meet with a Swiss arbiter to state their cases. The format for the hearing is yet to be decided. CAS Secretary General Matthieu Reeb said: “At this time, only the dates have been confirmed. The format of the hearing (in-person, video link or a mixture of the two) has not yet been confirmed. Due to the current travel situation and restrictions on entering Switzerland, a full in-person hearing is very unlikely.
Neither party has requested a public hearing. It will not be possible for media to view the proceedings.”
After June 8, City and UEFA will have two more days to state their cases before the panel goes into deliberation. These cases can take some time, so General Reeb did not say when to expect a decision, but it’s clear UEFA want a decision by the start of the 2020/2021 Champions League season.
City’s chance of winning the appeal is impossible to predict right now. If the court find evidence from Football Leaks to be permissible, then it seems unlikely that City can fully overturn a ban.
Implications of a Ban
It’s obvious there could be plenty of changes at Manchester City if a two-year ban from UEFA competitions is confirmed. For starters, ban or no ban, Pep Guardiola is entering the final year of his contract and it’s hard to expect him staying on forever. Then there are players like Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and others who came to City specifically to play Champions League football.
To be clear, none of these individuals have indicated any desire to leave. But if they did, Manchester City’s return would still be astronomical. Obviously, a ban would lead to some players looking elsewhere but it will be interesting to watch if those actions need to be carried out.
Manchester City’s Return to the Field
The league has decided that games will restart on June 17, with Manchester City hosting Arsenal as one of two fixtures on that date. They will be making up the game postponed for Manchester City’s League Cup final victory.
Manchester City’s return features six home games and four away games. Trips to Chelsea, Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford and Southampton will be offset by home games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley, Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Norwich City.
It’s impossible to know how any of these teams are going to look when the game’s start up. Some players are going to be rusty and some players who were carrying injuries are now fully healthy again.
But these first games are about shaking the rust off, finding a rhythm and getting into playing shape for the larger challenges ahead. Ban or no ban, Manchester City still have a Champions League campaign and an FA Cup campaign for the taking. It’s time to find out how ready they are.