Manchester City Escapes Champions League Ban

Manchester City won its appeal against a ban from the Champions League, in a victory for the club’s owners, Abu Dhabi’s royal family and U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake.

Soccer governing body UEFA had barred the English Premier League team from Europe’s most prestigious competition for two seasons and fined it 30 million euros ($34 million) for overstating sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016.

The independent Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland said Manchester City did not hide equity funding as sponsorship contributions but did fail to cooperate with UEFA authorities. The fine was also reduced to 10 million euros

At stake was a potential 100 million euros a season in revenue, the ability to hang onto top players who want to compete at the highest level, and pride in one of the world’s most famous soccer clubs. No team from any of the big five leagues in Europe has ever been banned from the Champions League for breaching its financial fair play rules.

Since being acquired by Abu Dhabi in 2008, Manchester City has grown to become the world’s sixth-biggest soccer club with an annual revenue of more than 600 million pounds, according to Deloitte’s Money League. Last year it won the Premier League, the world’s richest soccer competition. Silver Lake owns around 10% of Manchester City, valuing it at about 5 billion pounds.

Under the financial fair play rules introduced in 2011, teams have to balance their spending within revenues and are prevented from accumulating debt.

Rivals say that breaches of the regulations allow the offending teams to spend more on top players, distorting competition.

Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s La Liga, called Manchester City’s spending “financial doping” and said it’s essential for the sport to put an end to rule-breaking.

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