Although Manchester City’s Premier League efforts haven’t hit their usual heights this season, the same cannot be said about their legal team and, after a seismic victory in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), there is reason for celebration at the Etihad. The Manchester City FFP ruling, overturns UEFA’s two-year ban for breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, meaning that the prospect of European exile no longer looms large and should also ward off any concerns over a mass exodus from the club.
It is fantastic news for all involved at Manchester City and incredibly bad news for their nearest rivals, both home and abroad, whose hopes that Man City will be toppled from the top table of European football now appear unfounded.
The ruling from CAS on Monday was seen as a watershed moment for both the club itself and UEFA. With the former feeling that they’ve got one over on Europe’s governing body, the latter are now licking their wounds.
Not only have UEFA had to deal with a rather public humiliation but must now do some collective soul searching as questions previously asked regarding the enforcement of FFP will only get louder again.
There was always a sense that UEFA wanted to land a big scalp and, in doing so, send a message to the rest of Europe’s elite that nobody, regardless of size, is above the rules.
With City seemingly caught in the crosshairs, the two-year suspension from European football was validation of the FFP process and a job well done for people who have taken painful steps to implement it.
However, the removal of the suspension and the lessening of the fine that City will have to pay can only be seen as an embarrassing climbdown for those within UEFA’s Nyon headquarters. Indeed, the decision taken within the CAS courtroom now leaves the concept of FFP hanging by a thread.
Of course, the Manchester City FFP ruling going against UEFA isn’t just a win for Pep Guardiola’s men but perhaps the rest of Europe as well and, with FFP now looking somewhat unenforceable, the gates may reopen to large expenditure once again.
It is a scenario which may not necessarily happen this summer, if only because the current FFP framework has been relaxed due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, once things are tightened back to before, that may not stop the absolute best from spending the biggest amounts.
It must be remembered that City themselves are not absolved of all blame here and received a €10 million fine, albeit one handed out due to an obstruction of process, rather than FFP breaches themselves. It is fair to say though that the punishment will be seen as a rather meek one.
A 10m Euro fine, is tantamount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist for a club with the financial resources of City and not a strong one at that. Had the fine been ten times that amount, thus wiping out the financial benefits of playing in the Champions League, it might at least have served as a warning to City’s rivals.
City’s remaining Champions League rivals this season will have watched the ruling with a keen interest and, although any decision from CAS would have had no bearing on this year’s edition of the competition, it has certainly given Pep Guardiola’s side a shot in the arm.
And what bigger plot twist could there be than Manchester City getting the ultimate victory over UEFA by going on to win the Champions League for the first time next month?
There is still City’s defence of the FA Cup to consider and, with the semi-final taking place this weekend, the boost of a win in the courtroom is not the result that an indifferent Arsenal side would have wanted.
It is an encounter that will see Mikel Arteta go up against his former colleagues and, had the Manchester City FFP ruling gone against his upcoming opponents, Arsenal would have hoped to capitalise on the turmoil that would inevitably have engulfed the club.
However, City will now go into this game from a position of strength and, although they may have relinquished their grip on the Premier League title, potentially ending it with another hat-trick of silverware successes would prove that they are no busted flush.
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