Manchester City’s hopes that Financial Fair Play (FFP) might be ruled illegal rest on a potentially hugely significant court case which opens in Brussels on Thursday.
The challenge to Uefa’s regime – which City fell foul of last year – has been brought by football agent Daniel Striani, and supporters of both City and Paris Saint-Germain, and will be heard over the next two days at the Court of First Instance in the Belgian capital.
Striani and the fans are being represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, one of the lawyers who secured the landmark Bosman ruling 20 years ago, with Dupont preparing to argue that FFP infringes competition law and should therefore be declared illegal.
European football’s governing body, Uefa – which will have its own legal representation in court – insists it has support for FFP from the European Commission, which in October decided not to investigate Striani’s case further. Legal opinion suggests that it may be more than a year before the case is resolved. The case of Karen Murphy, the Portsmouth landlady who took on the Premier League, underlines how drawn out decisions can be. Ms Murphy went to court to fight for her right to use satellite decoders to show live football intended for transmission abroad.
The legal argument in the Striani case is that the break-even requirement of FFP is in breach of article 101.2 of the EU Treaty. This article prohibits cartels and other agreements that could disrupt free competition and, therefore, have an impact on consumer protection.
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