The detail behind Manchester City’s overwhelming victory over UEFA – and the considerable lengths it went to in order to clear its name – have been laid bare.
A 93-page report from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who lifted a two-year ban against the English club by European football’s governing body, was published on Tuesday.
City were handed the ban – and a £26.9m (€30m) – after UEFA found they had carried out ‘serious breaches’ of the Financial Fair Play regulations by falsely inflating sponsorship deals.
However, CAS dismissed the ban and reduced the penalty to £9m (€10m) in a dramatic judgement passed down earlier this month.
City are criticised by CAS in the lengthy document for failure to co-operate with UEFA’s own investigation.
However, the arbitrators found that in the case of City’s sponsorship deal with Etihad, one of those under question, there was ‘no meaningful evidence corroborating the hypothesis’ that funding from the club’s owners ‘was channelled to Etihad directly’, or that payments were made to Etihad through third parties.
Elsewhere the verdict, which adds that UEFA relied on ‘insufficient evidence’ discloses that City enlisted the services of 12 of Europe’s top lawyers to represent them. They also brought no fewer than seven live witnesses forwards.
It is understood that no expense was spared by the club in what was viewed inside City as a case which was clearly win-at-all-costs. With the club’s reputation at stake, whatever resources needed went into their argument.
The findings also confirm Sportsmail’s exclusive, bombshell story that a number of top-flight clubs wrote to CAS to object to any attempt by City to stay the penalty during the appeal process. It names, Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, United, Newcastle, Tottenham and Wolves as those who filed an application.
In UEFA’s defence, the findings suggest that there were grounds for the governing body to have suspicions, albeit if those were unproven.
CAS also hit out at City for a failure to co-operate with UEFA’s investigation, described as a ‘blatant disregard’, and pointed out that the governing body are reliant upon assistance from clubs when carrying out probes into Financial Fair Play.
City were found to have ‘obstructed’ UEFA’s original probe, for which they should be ‘severely reproached’.
The CAS findings also ruled some of the main charges brought were time barred, as they took place too long ago. City believe that had they been included, the club would still have prevailed.
UEFA, who had launched their probe after hacked emails were leaked to the German media, had claimed that sponsorship monies from Etihad and Etisalat had come from the clubs ownership, rather than the companies themselves. But the document stated: ‘The majority of the panel finds that UEFA’s main charges, i.e. providing incorrect information to Uefa with respect to having received disguised equity funding through Etisalat and Etihad, must be dismissed.’
City provided new evidence at the appeal, including making the witnesses available which ‘had an impact on the Panel’s findings’. One of those, non-exec director and advisor Simon Pearce, categorically denied arranging payments to Etihad and ‘did not strike the panel as an unreliable witness’.