Football: financial fair play in small form after defeat against Manchester City

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Monday in favor of the English club, which UEFA wanted to exclude from all European competitions for two years.

For Manchester City, Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has spent lavishly since 2008. Established five years later, Financial Fair Play (FPF) nevertheless stipulates that a European football club must take out of its pockets only the money that ‘he won. Just between 2010 and 2019, this member of the Abu Dhabi royal family invested 1.4 billion euros in player transfers to make a dying club, living in jealousy of the results of its neighbor Manchester United, a quadruple champion of England and a contender – rejected for the moment – to victory in the Champions League.

On Monday July 13, the Emirati Sheikh may have achieved his most precious victory for his dear club. Five months earlier, UEFA had suspended Manchester City from all participation in its European cups for the next two seasons for non-compliance with the FPF. But there was a return match to be negotiated and City’s lawyers won it on Monday before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.

“Manchester City did not disguise its sponsorship contracts but failed to cooperate with UEFA” , justified the CAS in its decision. The Mancunian club also sees the fine imposed by the European body drop from 30 million to 10 million euros (payable within thirty days). Almost a drop when you have an annual budget of 565 million euros.

“It’s still a big club that is doing well”

At the time, however, the February 14 decision appeared to be a major turning point. For the first time, UEFA dared to eject, through its financial fair play rules, a member of the European top 10 in its competitions. Can the snub, legal and media, inflicted by the CAS call into question the regulatory instrument wanted in his time by Michel Platini, when he chaired the body that heads European football?

“The CAS criticizes Manchester City for its lack of collaboration with UEFA, basically for having lied about its sources of income during the investigation, but considers that what is accused of the club on the merits is prescribed. It is a great hypocrisy  ”, laments Pierre Rondeau. According to this economist specializing in football, “this decision is not called upon to set a precedent and to bury financial fair play as some are already arguing” .

“We do not know the factual basis on which the CAS ruled to decide that there was not enough evidence to say that Manchester City had manipulated its accounts” , nuance Antoine Duval, researcher in European sports law at the Asser Institute, the Netherlands. On March 19, 2019, the CAS had already ruled in favor of Paris-Saint-Germain in another procedure related to the FPF.