The English champions were the subject of a series of stunning revelations made by the Football Leaks hackers last month, not least with regard to inflated sponsorship deals seemingly designed to beat UEFA’s FFP system.
Among the reports, based on documents seized by Football Leaks, was a claim that City’s holding company paid £59.5million of Etihad’s annual sponsorship deal, with only £8m coming from the airline.
On Monday, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin confirmed that what he described as ‘a concrete case’ was being investigated.
City were fined £49m and had their squad capped for failing FFP rules four years ago. A senior UEFA source said that, if they are found guilty of financial cheating, ‘sporting sanctions’ would need to follow, not least because the ‘integrity of UEFA’ was at stake.
A Champions League ban would be among the sanctions UEFA could impose if they conclude that the fine in 2014 had no impact.
Ceferin said: ‘We are assessing the situation. We have an independent body working on it. Very soon we will have the answers on what will happen in this concrete case.’
City have issued a consistent response to all claims made by Football Leaks and Der Spiegel:
“We will not be providing any comment on out-of-context materials purportedly hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Manchester City personnel and associated people. The attempt to damage the club’s reputation is organised and clear.”
What was clear from Football Leaks was that UEFA under former president Gianni Infantino did not have the stomach to take own state-owned teams like Manchester City or PSG over FFP. It remains to be seen whether Ceferin is prepared to go to court to defend FFP as this is where this will go if he decided to ban City from the Champions League for a season.
At the end of the day, a one-year ban is meaningless. Look at all the big clubs, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan, Inter Milan that have missed out on Champions League football for one or more seasons this decade. To stop financial doping, the ban has to be longer. And UEFA does not have the stomach for that.