Uncertainty lingers over Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal after the club have been handed a two-year ban from European competition for FFP breaches.
The coronavirus outbreak has condemned the world of soccer to a near-total shutdown and schisms continue to be over the short-term future of the game.
Debates rage over what to do with the the rest of current seasons; when should they resume? How should they restart? Should they be voided altogether?
Manchester City, presently banned from the Champions League for the next two years by UEFA over a serious breach of Financial Fair Play regulations, are amongst those clubs caught in the crossfire with potential knock-on effects for Pep Guardiola’s side.
The Premier League champions have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to overturn the decision however that case is up in the air with no current date for it to be heard and the Swiss institution not hosting any in-person hearings till May at the earliest.
The situation is further complicated through the uncertainty surrounding the European footballing calendar with all leagues, other than Belarus, shut down and no way of knowing when they will be completed. Champions League soccer is additionally suspended with no plans to restart and City’s 2nd leg towards Real Madrid was postponed just before all soccer in England was closed down.
City deny any wrongdoing over UEFA’s investigation. However, with an appeal not going to be heard any time soon, the club could lodge an application to “stay” the punishment which, if upheld, would enable them to play in next season’s competition. That opportunity has apparently not gone down nicely with City’s league counterparts; eight sides in the top 10 have reportedly written to CAS outlining their objections.
John Shea, a dispute resolution lawyer at Lewis Silkin’s sports practice, says City’s Premier League rivals are not currently parties in the case and would have to show they would be affected by any “stay”.
“An application to stay the execution of a decision is usually submitted at the same time as the announcement of appeal. City’s appeal was submitted back in February and at that stage I don’t suppose City requested a stay because CAS proceedings can proceed on an expedited basis, that means a decision could be made by the summer and before the start of next season,” he told Goal.
“However, Covid-19 can also have affected this timetable especially, so there is likely to be a backlog and that’s assuming that it is safe to return at that stage.
“Arbitrators and events are now encouraged to conduct hearings by video conference or to render decisions based totally on written submissions, however this is not likely to be appropriate in a case of this importance.
“Under R37 of the CAS code, a party may additionally apply for a stay of the decision through what is known as provisional measures and if such an application is made, the other party is required to reply to the application inside 10 days.
“Other Premier League clubs are not presently parties to the proceedings however if they can show that they are directly affected by the decision, for example because they could qualify for the Champions League in City’s place, then they may have standing to intervene in the CAS proceedings and make submissions.
A season out of Europe could doubtlessly cost as lots as £100 million ($123m) and City had hoped for an early resolution before the coronavirus outbreak took hold.
CEO Ferran Soriano stated quickly after the ban was announced that he hoped it would be settled by early summer. He additionally denied the allegations, insisting the club will do “everything that can be achieved to prove” their innocence.
City say they have “irrefutable evidence” that the claims are not true whilst Mr Shea believes the club will additionally argue about the manner of UEFA’s investigation.
“It’s clear from the statements that City made following the choice and from their previous try at CAS to stop the disciplinary case being referred to UEFA’s adjudicatory chamber, that they are sincerely peeved about how the disciplinary system has been conducted with various media leaks and so I have no doubt they will raise a number of procedural arguments,” he said.
“In any event, the CAS panel will consider this case de novo which means they will review all the proof and arguments from each parties afresh and attain its very own decision, which City have actually welcomed through referring to the need for an impartial judgment at CAS.
“City refer to irrefutable proof in support of its role so however all their arguments related to procedural unfairness, it’s truly possible that they will deny that sponsorship deals had been inflated and that there has been a breach of the regulations. I’ve not seen the proof so I of course can’t comment on whether City are in all likelihood to succeed with such an argument or not.
“I strongly suspect that City will additionally attempt to challenge the legality of the FFP guidelines on the groundwork that they contravene EU competition law. CAS previously deemed them to be compliant with EU competition law in the case involving Galatasaray in 2016, however I am expecting City to raise clean arguments on this issue.
“Finally, I thoroughly expect City to argue that the sanction of a two-season ban is disproportionate. AC Milan were additionally handed a two-year ban in 2018 for failing to comply with the FFP regulations. On appeal to CAS, it was held that the Adjudicatory Chamber had failed to consider all the data and so it referred the case back to the Adjudicatory Chamber to make a proportionate decision based totally on all the facts.”
City additionally have another trick up their sleeve, in accordance to Mr Shea. He says they can look to the instance of former Peru captain Paolo Guerrero, who was allowed to play in the 2018 World Cup when a Swiss supreme court froze a 14-month ban for a positive drugs test.
“If City’s appeal is rejected, they should potentially take the case to the Swiss Federal Tribunal for a similarly appeal or even the European Commission, European Court of Justice in Luxembourg or European Union Court of Human Rights relying on the arguments,” Mr Shea added.
“At that point, the club ought to seek a suspension of the sanction in order to play in next year’s Champions League – an example of this is the Peru player Guerrero.”