Manchester City’s two-season European ban has been lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
UEFA’s club financial control body (CFCB) sanctioned City in February for what it said was a breach of its Financial Fair Play (FFP) and club licensing regulations.
The CFCB said City had overstated sponsorship revenue in their accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016, and for failing to co-operate with its investigation.
City immediately signalled their intention to appeal. Now CAS has now cleared them to compete in the Champions League next season. Furthermore, their €30million fine has also been reduced to €10m (£8.9million).
City issued a statement welcoming “the implications” of the ruling.
The statement read: “Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”
CAS found that City had not disguised equity funding as sponsorship, but did say they had failed to co-operate with the CFCB’s investigation.
City’s appeal against the two-year ban was heard last month, and the outcome will be seen by the club as a vindication of their position since the beginning.
CAS found that most of the alleged breaches were either not established or were time-barred.
CAS decided that it was “not appropriate” to maintain the European competition ban. They claimed the allegations of disguising owner funding as sponsorship, which were not proven. They also stated they were more serious than the allegation about a lack of co-operation.
City were found to have breached Article 56 of UEFA’s club licensing and FFP regulations. That states that a licensee (club) must “co-operate with the licensor (UEFA) and the UEFA Club Financial Control Body in respect of their requests and enquiries”.
The news will surely secure Pep Guardiola’s future at the Etihad. While he had always affirmed his plan to stay, rumours had surfaced about a potential return to Barcelona.
Furthermore, the ban will also halt talk that some of their star men could look to move on.
Raheem Sterling had been linked with Real Madrid and Sergio Aguero with Inter Milan.
De Bruyne relief
Perhaps the biggest relief, however, will be over Kevin De Bruyne.
While the Belgian is settled at the club, he had hinted he could think about his future were a two-year ban upheld.
“I’m just waiting,” De Bruyne said in an interview cited by The Guardian. “The club told us they are going to appeal and they are almost 100% sure they are right. That’s why I’m waiting to see what will happen. I trust my team.
“Once the decision is made, I will review everything. Two years would be long, but in the case of one year I might see.”