Are Premier League close to charging Man City? Two experts appointed in financial fair play case 


Are the Premier League close to charging Man City? Ultra-secretive three-year legal investigation is reaching final stage with two experts appointed in Financial Fair Play battle sparked by Der Spiegel’s publication of leaked emails

  • ‘Subject matter experts’ are normally appointed in anticipation of a charge
  • No confirmation that Manchester City have been charged with any offence
  • Both parties have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the battle secret 

The Premier League have appointed ‘subject matter experts’ for the ultra-secretive three-year legal investigation into Manchester City’s finances, which suggests the Financial Fair Play battle between the Premier League champions and the authorities is reaching its protracted final stage.

‘Subject matter experts’ are expert witness that explain the context of detail within a case and according to one Premier League legal expert they would normally be appointed in anticipation of a charge being made, but there is no confirmation from City or the Premier League that they have been charged with any offence.

Indeed, both parties have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the battle secret. It was sparked by Der Spiegel’s publication of leaked emails, which suggested that City’s commercial figures were inflated by Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group to circumnavigate Financial Fair Play rules.

Der Spiegel’s publication of leaked emails suggested that Manchester City’s commercial figures were inflated by Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group

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That led to City being charged by UEFA and the Premier League investigating in March 2019. City were initially banned from the Champions League by UEFA’s Financial Control Body in February 2020 but that decision was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July 2020, because much of the evidence fell outside of a time limit. CAS decided the case against City hadn’t been established by the emails that were within the five-year limit.

It was the CAS ruling that helped allay manager Pep Guardiola’s fears, after the Catalan sought assurances from the Manchester City hierarchy about the club’s financial conduct.

Guardiola, who first worked with chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain at Barcelona, wanted answers over allegations that City had breached financial fair play rules.

‘I said to our people, ‘Tell me’ about the suspicions. I looked at them and believed them 100 per cent from day one so I defended the club because of that,’ said the City manager, whose side face Saudi Arabian-owned Newcastle today.

Manager Pep Guardiola sought assurances from the Manchester City hierarchy about the club’s financial conduct

Manager Pep Guardiola sought assurances from the Manchester City hierarchy about the club’s financial conduct

‘I did say, ‘If you lie to me, the day after I am not here. I will be out and you will not be my friend any more’.

‘I like to represent a club that is doing things properly. In the end it’s not about winning the Champions League or Premier League, it’s about always doing it well, for our people and our fans.

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‘What CAS said meant a lot. It broke all the suspicion. I can not forget that nine teams in the Premier League pushed to sack Manchester City from European competitions, I know who they are.’

However, the Premier League rules aren’t necessarily bound by a five-year statute of limitations mentioned by CAS and City have been obliged by a Commercial Court ruling to provide documents.

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Financial Fair Play battle between the Premier League champions and the authorities could be reaching its protracted final stage

In a complex legal case, City have challenged the Premier League’s right to investigate them and their duty to release documents. The legal challenges to the Premeir League rights ended up in civil courts, which are normally public.

That case ended up in the High Court in July 2021 because both City and Premier League wanted all details to remain private and The Mail on Sunday argued it should be public.

Lord Justice Males, one the most senior judges in the UK, backed The Mail on Sunday and said: ‘This is an investigation which commenced in December 2018. It is surprising, and a matter of legitimate public concern, that so little progress has been made after two-and-a-half years, during which, it may be noted, the club has twice been crowned as Premier League champions.’

CAS decided the case against City hadn't been established by the emails that were within the five-year limit

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CAS decided the case against City hadn’t been established by the emails that were within the five-year limit

The leaked emails had already shown that City’s strategy in cases such as these was to tie sports bodies up in legal knots. 

One internal communication by Simon Cliff, City’s in-house lawyer, said that Khaldoon al-Mubarak, the City chairman had warned Gianni Infantino, then Uefa’s general secretary and now president of Fifa, that City would not accept a sanction for financial fair play rules. According to Cliff, Khaldoon told Infantino: ‘He would rather spend 30 million on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue [Uefa] for the next 10 years.’

The Premier League has always said it will only comment once the case has been concluded and declined to comment, as did City. The club always insisted that the leaked emails were taken ‘out of context’ and were ‘purportedly hacked or stolen’, adding that ‘the attempt to damage the club’s reputation is organised and clear’.

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