UEFA investigators send Manchester City case to judges

GENEVA (AP) — Manchester City’s possible one-year ban from the Champions League is in the hands of a panel of independent judges.

UEFA said Thursday its club finance investigators have sent the file on the Premier League champions to the judges, but the governing body did not publish the recommended punishment or a timetable for the verdict.

City is suspected of breaking rules that monitor commercial income and spending on player transfers and wages. The most serious sanction, the ban from the Champions League, could apply next season.

The chief investigator in the case was Yves Leterme, a former prime minister of Belgium. The chief judge, Jose Narciso da Cunha Rodrigues of Portugal, also sits at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

City hit back Thursday at what it called “a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed, and hostile process” overseen by UEFA.

“The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the … Referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City,” the club said.

UEFA’s club finance panel opened a formal case against City in March “for potential breaches of financial fair play regulations that were made public in various media outlets.”.

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Internal documents about City’s business and emails between club executives have been published in the Football Leaks series led by German magazine Der Spiegel. The revelations implied City officials deceived UEFA for several years, including by disguising that revenue from potentially overvalued commercial deals came from the club’s owners in Abu Dhabi.

UEFA rules limiting cash injections from wealthy owners requires potentially overvalued sponsor deals linked to those owners to be made at a fair market rate.

The Football Leaks documents are suspected of being hacked or stolen, and a Portuguese man was extradited from Hungary to his home country in March to be questioned about attempted extortion and illegal access to data.

City has not disputed that the published information is authentic, while also refusing to address the detail in public statements.

The Associated Press reported this week that club officials have not fully cooperated with UEFA investigators.

“Manchester City is entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body,” the club said in its most recent statement.

City can appeal against any punishment at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Any appeal process would face a tight schedule to be resolved by Aug. 29, the date of the Champions League draw. UEFA judges could also decide to apply sanctions in the 2020-21 season.

If Man City is removed from next season’s Champions League, Arsenal could be the replacement club as the fifth-place Premier League team. However, Arsenal can qualify on its own by winning the Europa League final against Chelsea on May 29. That would lift sixth-place Manchester United into contention.

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UEFA’s FFP procedural rules allow for affected third parties — potentially Arsenal and Man United — to ask to take part in any judicial hearing Man City faces.

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