The potential for rival clubs to challenge Manchester City’s place in next season’s Champions League is more widespread than previously thought, with CSKA Moscow – the club at loggerheads with them five months ago – one of those entitled to mount a legal challenge this week.
The Independent on Sunday revealed three months ago that detailed new Financial Fair Play rules gave a “directly affected party” ten days to appeal any deal if City are in breach of the guidelines.
Rival British clubs have told this newspaper that they are reserving judgement on what to do. It had been thought that only those who miss out on a Premier League top four place could appeal but now it has emerged that even those English sides who have secured Champions League football plus CSKA Moscow and Czech side Viktoria Plzen, who City eliminated in this season’s group stage, could each mount a challenge.
Top four finishers like Liverpool and Chelsea could argue that their potential cut of next season’s Champions League TV money has been affected by the unfair level of City’s spending. The champions secure 50%, the runners-up 30 per cent, third placed team 20 per cent and fourth-placed side 10 percent.
CSKA and Plzen can argue that City have used an unfair level of financial losses to help eliminate them at the group stage. CSKA have motive to do so, having been at loggerheads with City over their fans’ racial abuse of Yaya Toure when the two sides met last autumn. The Russians refused to admit the racism but were punished for it by Uefa.
Details of City’s “settlement agreement” with Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), including a fine and probable squad restrictions in next season’s Champions League, are expected to be announced on Tuesday.
The detailed assessment of who might challenge City comes from FFP lawyer Daniel Geey, a football law specialist at the firm Field Fisher Waterhouse and co-author of an annual FFP report, which was jointly published by his firm and lawyers BDO last week. (close) “It is not necessarily those sides outside of next season’s Champions League who could challenge the settlement,” Geey said. “It could be those who have qualified but who want a higher European placement, with the considerable financial benefit that brings.”
But overturning any agreement struck between a club and the governing body will be tough - because the legal bar is high. The rules dictate that a challenge must prove it was “grossly disproportionate” of Uefa to strike the agreement with City. Even if a challenge is successful, City would not find themselves automatically subject to a ban. Instead, the CFCB would have to reconsider the severity of punishment.
The plea bargaining system, and the right it gives clubs to challenge City’s penalty, is “the most important [of FFP] that has changed the landscape,” Geey said. “It was not a part of the FFP regulations published in 2010 and updated in 2012. It was simply published on Uefa’s website [three months ago] and happened by stealth.