In what is the biggest soccer news since the return to play, English giants, Manchester City, have won their appeal to the Swiss Court of Arbitration for Sport against the UEFA ruling of a two-year Champions League ban for breach of Financial Fair Play rules. In addition, the club’s fine that was set at €30m, has been reduced to €10m as a result.
The case was set by UEFA under the charge that Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership group had disguised its own funding as an independent sponsorship by other companies not related to them. The CAS have found no evidence supporting this claim, and have made it clear that if there were, it would be considered “time-barred” under UEFA’s own rules.
This news came to the joy of City fans across the globe, but much to the dismay of their Premier League rivals. For example, Tottenham Hotspur manager, José Mourinho, called the ruling a “disgraceful” one; deeming UEFA’s FFP regulations to be ineffective and irrelevant to major European clubs.
Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, has too publicly called the CAS’ decision a bad one for football as a whole, as it clearly continues giving rich clubs the ability to spend big on players, hence hurting the competitive nature of the sport. Klopp made it clear he was “happy” that City will return back to the European stage but is disappointed with the significance of the ruling to the role of money in soccer.
Despite the growing hatred for Manchester City as a result of this court ruling, manager, Pep Guardiola, has stood by the club and is quick to defend their innocence. In a recent press conference, he went as far as to demand an apology from UEFA themselves for their handling of the case and damaging City’s reputation.
In addition, Guardiola argued that the club’s position of being a continuous title-contending team in England makes other organizations such as Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal “uncomfortable.” It seems like Pep is more determined than ever to motivate his players to continue their chase for more silverware, as a means of sending a message not just to their English rivals, but to soccer fans across Europe.
So, what does this ruling mean for UEFA’s reputation among soccer fans?
In my opinion, there is a lot to unpack here. As a City fan myself, I am extremely content with the decision, but understand why rival fans are both angry and disappointed. The role of money in soccer is continuing to grow, with clubs like Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City themselves, constantly making big-money roster improvements that put them in a favorable competitive position relative to their opponents.
My biggest takeaway, though, is how this case will be used in the future rulings for other clubs accused of similar wrongdoings. I believe the CAS’ stance on this matter will allow for other big clubs to find loopholes around the system, hence de-legitimizing UEFA’s enforcement of Financial Fair Play regulations.
With that in mind, I think it would make sense for UEFA to create either additional rules, or re-construct FFP regulation/enforcement as a means of truly forcing clubs to comply in the future. Their reputation as an organization has taken a major blow with this ruling, so these would be necessary changes to save face and regain the respect of soccer fans all across Europe.
In the end, I do believe that if Manchester City did commit any wrongdoing, they would’ve been fairly charged for it, but at the same time, this should serve as a wake-up call for UEFA to change their policies, in regard to FFP sanctions.
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