Manchester City's Champions League ban: six key questions
In the wake of UEFA's announcement that City have been banned from European football for two seasons, AS discusses six key issues.
UEFA on Friday banned Manchester City from European competition for the next two seasons, and fined the Premier League club 30 million euros, for breaching Financial Fair Play rules. Since March 2019, European football's governing body had been conducting an investigation into the club, who reacted to the announcement of the punishment with a statement saying they were "disappointed but not surprised".
In the wake of the ban, AS discusses a few key questions:
Could the CAS overturn the suspension?
City have vowed to take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with the tribunal expected to deliver a verdict on the club's appeal during the summer. If the CAS is unable to rule on the matter before the beginning of the 2020/21 Champions League, City could seek the interim suspension of the ban, allowing them to play in Europe while the body continues its deliberations. If CAS finds against the club, City could then turn to the regular justice system, as Swiss side Sion did when they were excluded from the Europa League for fielding ineligible players in 2011.
Another recent high-profile example of UEFA's attempts to clamp down on over-spending is AC Milan, who are currently serving a one-season ban from the Europa League. In summer 2018, the CAS actually quashed a two-year suspension given to Milan for FFP breaches committed between 2015 and 2017; however, with the Rossoneri's finances in the two years after that also under the miscroscope, they opted to strike a deal with UEFA and take a one-season suspension.
How could the punishment affect the Premier League?
According to Champions League rules, the leagues in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are all guaranteed four places in the tournament. If City finish in the top four in the Premier League, therefore, their spot will go to the division's fifth-placed side, as Article 4 of the Regulations of the Champions League explains: "A club which is not admitted to the competition is replaced by the next best-placed club in the top domestic championship of the same association, provided the new club fulfils the admission criteria."
Meanwhile, The Independent has reported that the Premier League could also hand down sanctions to City for their financial irregularities, with a points deduction "now seen as highly likely".
If City win this season's Champions League, who takes part in the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup?
This scenario appears to be dealt with by Article 6, Section N of the Regulations of the Champions League, in which UEFA says that clubs agree "to participate as winner or, if requested, as runner-up of the UEFA Champions League in the UEFA Super Cup, in the FIFA Club World Cup and in intercontinental competitions arranged by UEFA in conjunction with other confederations". In addition to being unable to defend their European title, therefore, it seems that City would have their place in the Super Cup and Club World Cup taken by the losing finalists.
Will City be able to sign players while the ban is in place?
This punishment is unrelated to the transfer bans handed to the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid over irregularities in the signing of international minors - an infringement which also saw City themselves escape with a fine last year. In theory, no limitations of this sort will be imposed on City, although it is worth noting that Milan's continental ban also included a reduced European squad limit of 21 players - rather than the usual 25 - in future seasons.
How will the ban affect City's revenue?
If City do end up sitting out the Champions League for two years as part of a ban described by LaLiga president Javier Tebas as "better late than never", the hole it will leave in their coffers will be considerable. This season alone, they are expected to pocket between 80 and 110 million euros for their participation in Europe's premier club competition, while the drop in prestige caused by being outside of the tournament would also severely hit their income from sponsorship and international tours.
Could we see a mass exodus of key City personnel?
How can Manchester City keep hold of their stars if they can't play on the biggest club stage? How is head coach Pep Guardiola going to attract future signings without the carrot of Champions League football? Right now, City have as many as 19 players out of contract in 2022 or earlier (nine who are in the first-team squad, 10 who are out on loan), including figures such as Nicolás Otamendi (2022), Fernandinho (2021) and Sergio Agüero (2021). It may prove a struggle to persuade key performers like Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva to stay on, too, while the ban has also fuelled hopes among Guardiola's suitors that he could be lured away from the Etihad Stadium...
What's more, the drop in revenue brought about by their Champions League absence may well force City to sell players and adapt the high salaries being paid to their current squad to their new circumstances.