Manchester City have broken their silence on the Uefa investigation that could result in the club being hit with a one-season Champions League ban, claiming suggestions of wrongdoing are “entirely false” and that there is “comprehensive proof” otherwise.
The club addressed an allegation published by The New York Times this week that Uefa financial investigators meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, two weeks ago had agreed to recommend a one-year ban for City when the case is passed to the Uefa body responsible for regulations.
City said in a statement that the suggestion those involved in the investigatory process, overseen by Yves Leterme, the former Belgian prime minister, had already found the club guilty of breaking financial fair play regulations was “extremely concerning”. There are eight members of the Uefa investigatory chamber of the semi-autonomous club financial control body, which oversees the monitoring of, among other things, Financial Fair Play.
Among them is Rick Parry, chief executive at Liverpool from 1998 to 2009 and former Premier League chief executive. The final decision is made by Leterme, chairman and chief investigator of Uefa’s investigatory chamber. In the event of finding a breach of regulations, he would present his evidence to the decision-making adjudicatory chamber. Parry declined to comment yesterday when asked if he was one of the investigatory chamber members on the City case, or whether he considered there to be any conflict of interest that might lead to him recusing himself.
Also listed by Uefa as serving in the investigatory chamber are sports law and regulatory law experts and other legal academics from six further Uefa nations. One of them, Petros Mavroidis, a Greek national, told CNN that no final decision had been made on City.
The club have been investigated by Uefa since documents obtained by the website Football Leaks, which cast doubt on their FFP probity, were published by Der Spiegel magazine in Germany in November.
Were a one-year Champions League ban imposed, it would most likely take effect in the 2020-21 season, and would set the stage for a major legal countermove by City. The club are certain to appeal any Uefa ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which would take until at least the autumn to reach any conclusion. A source close to the investigation confirmed all Uefa sanctions would be frozen while any appeal took place.
City, who face separate probes into their transfer dealings by Fifa, the Premier League and the Football Association, expressed anger that details of the Uefa investigation may have been subject to a leak. Since the first publication of documents leaked online, City have issued just two statements, the second in response to Uefa announcing its investigation in March in which the club said it welcomed the chance to clear its reputation.
City said yesterday: “The New York Times report citing ‘people familiar with the case’ is extremely concerning The implications are that either Manchester City’s good faith in the club financial control body investigatory chamber is misplaced or the chamber’s process is being misrepresented by individuals intent on damaging the club’s reputation and its commercial interests. Or both.
"Manchester City’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record. The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false, and comprehensive proof of this fact has been provided to the investigatory chamber.”
Senior Uefa officials – who previously launched sanctions against City in 2014 – are particularly enraged by leaked files from 2015, which claim almost £60 million was paid directly into the club by their billionaire Arab owners but declared as sponsorship.