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Manchester City lodge legal challenges against Premier League financial rule breaches

Club disputing legality of investigation and involvement of barrister in charge of disciplinary process.

19 May 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • City referred to independent commission by Premier League in February
  • Legal case could last four years

English soccer champions Manchester City have lodged legal challenges against the Premier League after being charged with alleged breaches of financial rules.

The club is disputing the legality of the investigation and the involvement of the barrister who is in charge of the disciplinary process, according to The Times. City are said to have raised the dispute in relation to recent changes in the Premier League’s rules, arguing that they should not apply to investigations into alleged rule breaches before then.

It is reported that City have challenged the involvement of Murray Rosen KC, the head of the Premier League’s independent judicial panel, as the person who appoints the chair of the disciplinary commission. The Times notes that, under the rules, Rosen can appoint himself.

City were referred to an independent commission by the Premier League back in February. The alleged breaches span from the 2009/10 to 2017/18 campaigns. The club, which remains on course for a treble-winning season, are alleged to have breached league rules requiring provision ‘in utmost good faith’ of ‘accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position’.

The Premier League says the accurate financial information required related to ‘revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs’.

The second set of breaches listed refers to alleged breaking of rules ‘requiring a member club to include full details of manager remuneration in its relevant contracts with its manager’ related to seasons 2009/10 to 2012/13 inclusive. Roberto Mancini was City’s manager between December 2009 and May 2013.

The second set of alleged breaches also refers to requirements for a club to include full details of player remuneration within the relevant contracts, for the seasons 2010/11 to 2015/16 inclusive.

The third section deals with alleged breaches of Premier League rules requiring clubs to comply with Uefa Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, between 2013/14 to 2017/18.

The fourth set of alleged breaches relates to the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules in seasons 2015/16 to 2017/18 inclusive.

City are also alleged to have breached league rules requiring member clubs to cooperate with and assist the Premier League with its investigations from December 2018.

All told, City have been charged with more than 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations, which can be boiled down to the following: inflating income, deflating costs and noncooperation.

City’s legal challenge will have to go to an arbitration panel initially, but beyond that it could end up in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The Times adds that City are prepared to go to the Supreme Court to fight the charges.

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City have insisted they have ‘irrefutable evidence’ to disprove the alleged rule breaches and have assembled a crack legal team to fight the charges, including David Pannick KC.

The club’s challenges will likely result in further delay to the outcome of the case. According to The Times, the process could take between two and four years before it is completed.

City have already successfully contested charges from Uefa for breaches of the governing body’s FFP rules. The club managed to get its two-season European competition ban lifted in July 2020 after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found City had not disguised equity funding as sponsorship.

If these latest charges are proven, City could face potential sanctions ranging from fines and points deductions to being stripped of Premier League titles and expulsion from the top flight. Even if the latter two appear unlikely, City will take no chances and is already engaging in a legal war of attrition.

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