Manchester City furious after Uefa investigation is sent for final judgment

Guardian sport on 16 May 2019

Manchester City have hit out in a strongly worded statement after a Uefa investigation into allegations of financial fair play irregularities, which could lead to a Champions League ban, was sent for a final judgment at the governing body.

The chairman and chief investigator of Uefa’s club financial control body investigatory chamber, Yves Leterme, has concluded City have a case to answer and has referred the allegations to the adjudicatory chamber, which will issue a ruling and determine any punishment.

City accused the process at Uefa of having been “curtailed” and “hostile”, with Leterme having taken the decision to refer the case two months after the investigation was opened. City argue the investigatory chamber is mistaken and confused, and has not fully considered the club’s response to allegations they misstated multimillion-pound sponsorships in their financial fair play submissions more than five years ago.

The club, who have vehemently denied wrongdoing, also expressed anger in their statement about alleged leaks from the process, referring to a report in the New York Times on Monday that the IC was set to recommend City be referred to the adjudicatory chamber and should be banned from the Champions League if found guilty.

The club’s statement clearly indicated they envisage appealing against any adverse decision to the court of arbitration for sport in Lausanne, where lawyers drawn from around Europe determine disputes with governing bodies.

The seven members of the investigatory chamber are thought to have advised Leterme that City had not satisfactorily answered the doubts over the independence of their sponsorships from the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.

Why have City been referred to Uefa’s adjudicatory chamber? The investigatory chamber has decided there is a case to answer that Manchester City breached Uefa’s financial fair play rules, and is believed to have recommended the club should be banned from the Champions League if the adjudicator chamber agrees.

What is it that City have actually been accused of by Uefa? The German magazine Der Spiegel claimed last year, based on a small selection of “leaked” documents that came into its possession, that City falsely stated investment from their owner Sheikh Mansour as sponsorships from Abu Dhabi companies.

How have City responded to the accusations against them? The Premier League champions fiercely deny wrongdoing, saying the documents obtained by Der Spiegel were hacked or stolen, and their contents taken out of context. They said that the referral ignores “a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence”.

If the AC finds against City, are the club expected to appeal? Almost certainly, to the court of arbitration for sport. City’s strongly worded statement, released on 16 May, said they are “entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body”.

A series of questions for the adjudicatory chamber to finally determine are understood to have been sent by Leterme, a senior Belgian politician and former prime minister, who has the sole authority to refer cases from the IC. City in effect accused the IC of failing to give them a fair hearing, arguing it did not take full account of “a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence” it provided.

“Manchester City football club is disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by the sudden announcement of the referral to be made by the CFCB IC chief investigator Yves Leterme,” the club said.

“The leaks to media over the last week are indicative of the process that has been overseen by Mr Leterme. Manchester City is entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body.

“The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City to the chamber.

“The decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process and there remain significant unresolved matters raised by Manchester City as part of what the club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed, and hostile process.”

City have been facing allegations since November that they falsely declared multimillions of pounds as sponsorships from the state airline Etihad and other Abu Dhabi companies that were in fact investment from Sheikh Mansour. The allegations are based on “leaked” internal City emails and other documents published by the German magazine Der Spiegel. City have said the contents were taken out of context.

Uefa’s statement on Thursday said: “The club financial control body (CFCB) chief investigator, after having consulted with the other members of the independent investigatory chamber of the CFCB, has today decided to refer Manchester City to the CFCB adjudicatory chamber following the conclusion of his investigation.

“The CFCB investigatory chamber had opened an investigation into Manchester City on 7 March 2019 for potential breaches of financial fair play regulations that were made public in various media outlets.

“Uefa will not be making any further comment on the matter until a decision is announced by the CFCB adjudicatory chamber.”

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