Manchester City were accused by the Premier League on Monday of providing misleading information about its finances in the nine years since it was taken over by the Abu Dhabi ruling family as the club sought to establish itself in English and European football.
The explosive developments in 2018 followed a four-year investigation by the world’s most popular football league after German magazine Der Spiegel published leaks of club emails and official Manchester City documents. The documents show the true source of income raised for the allegedly covered schemes to comply with financial regulations.
The Premier League has Financial Fair Play rules designed to ensure that clubs spend essentially what they earn from deals assessed as legitimate market value. This case may result in fines or more serious penalties such as demerit points.
The league released a lengthy statement detailing some 80 alleged breaches of its financial rules by City during the 2009-18 season, the first nine full seasons owned by Abu Dhabi. During that time, the team won three Premier League titles in 2012, 2014 and 2018, making it the most successful period in City’s 143-year history.
The league also charged City with 30 alleged breaches since December 2018 for failing to cooperate with the investigation.
The violations were referred to an independent committee that will consist of three judges appointed by the lawyer who chairs the league’s judicial panel. The committee’s hearings will be held in private, with no timetable for a ruling.
In a statement, City said they were “surprised” by the allegations, “particularly in light of the extensive involvement and the amount of detailed material that the EPL (Premier League) has garnered.”
“The club welcomes a review of the matter by an independent committee to impartially consider the full body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position,” City said. “We therefore look forward to resolving this issue once and for all.”
The league accused City of breaching rules by requiring “in the best good faith” to provide “accurate financial information which gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position” during the 2009-18 season and failing to provide “full details of the manager’s remuneration” in its report . Relevant contracts for 2009-13”. Roberto Mancini was the head coach during that period.
The third and fourth breaches were failures to comply with UEFA regulations from 2013-18 and the profitability and sustainability rules of the Premier League from 2015-18.
For the fifth breach, City are accused of breaching regulations requiring clubs to “cooperate and assist the Premier League in its investigations” from December 2018 to the present.
Manchester City, the defending Premier League champions and a team with world-class players such as Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, could risk severe penalties. The league’s rulebook gives the disciplinary committee the power to impose a range of sanctions, as well as, more broadly, “such other penalties as it deems appropriate.”
If the allegations are proven, huge fines seem inevitable. According to the rules of the league, the game also includes deductions, the cancellation of the championship title and even expulsion from the Premier League.
City have never denied that the documents leaked by Der Spiegel were authentic, but argue that the evidence was stolen and taken out of context.
While City are under investigation by the Premier League, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the club’s two-year European club competition ban in 2020 after UEFA ruled that City had committed “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play regulations during the 2012-16 season. That case also took place against the backdrop of an information breach.
Published evidence appears to suggest City defrauded UEFA by inflating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and concealing sources of income linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi.
As for Mancini, Der Spiegel evidence shows he doubled his base salary to £1.45 million (now $1.75 million) by advising a club in Abu Dhabi.
City have not been fully cleared of wrongdoing in the UEFA case, although CAS said some of the allegations had not been substantiated or could not be judged due to the statute of limitations imposed by UEFA rules. There is no such time limit on the finances of the Premier League investigation.
CAS also fined City 10 million euros ($11.3 million at the time) for failing to cooperate with investigators. Judges at the court said the club’s “blatant disregard” should be “strongly condemned”.
City have transformed into an English football powerhouse since September 2008 when they were acquired by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi.
A Deloitte report last month said City generated the highest revenue of any club in the world in the 2021-22 season – a total of £619.1 million ($745 million).
Under Abu Dhabi ownership, City – previously living in the shadow of neighbors Manchester United – has won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and six League Cups.
The team sits second in the Premier League at the middle of the season, five points behind Arsenal, who have played a game more.
Associated Press sports writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this story.
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