The Premier League’s case against Manchester City’s financial improprieties looks like it will drag on for years to come.

Merseysportlive has spoken to football finance expert Kieran Maguire and Merseyside lawyer Mark Manley to learn the details of the case.

Could you summarise the charges levied at Manchester City for us?

Mark Manley (MM): “Of the 115 charges, 30 of them relate to what the Premier League say is a failure on the part of the club to assist in Premier League investigations.”

“50 of the accusations, so nearly half of them, relate to what is alleged to be inaccuracy of financial information.”

“There is eight charges in relation to breaches of Premier League rules on manager remuneration and 25 related to profit and sustainability inaccuracies.”

Kieran Maguire (KM): “We can distil it into overstating income by claiming that money from the ownership was in fact sponsorship income.” 

“The club’s use of parallel or phantom contracts in respect to managers, meaning they were being paid once by Manchester City and once by a third party, which helps to reduce costs for FFP.”


How has Manchester City responded? And do they have a leg to stand on here?

KM: “City are very angry with two elements of what we have seen. First, in respect to the timing and that they weren’t given advanced notice.”

“Second, Manchester City feel that this is a part of a broader political response by the Premier League that is vehemently opposed to the threat of a government backed regulator.”

“They (City) will say they have improved the quality of the Premier League and therefore all other clubs have benefited on the back of that.”

MM: “The Man City response seems to be very robust indeed and they believe they have done nothing wrong.”

“City will be looking around and asking ‘is everybody else being looked at and investigated in the same way we are?’”

“However, this is a one off, we have never seen anything on this scale before. We have not seen this level or number of charges brought against any club previously.”

“Manchester City had previously gone through an issue with UEFA, they were found guilty and banned from UEFA and European competition for two years and fined €20million.”

“They (City) took the case to Court of Arbitration for Sport, the ban was overturned and the fine was reduced because most of the breaches in that case were statute barred.”

“The big difference between the UEFA rules and the Premier League rules is that the Premier League does not have a limitation period, so the League can go back as far as it wishes.”


How are the other clubs in the Premier League responding to this story?

KM: “The critics of Manchester City will say that they signed up to FFP so therefore they have an obligation to comply with the rules and if they have breached those rules, their achievements are tainted.”

MM: “If they are found guilty, I suspect that clubs will be pushing for heavy sanctions.”


What do you make of the accusations that the Premier League have done this to get ahead of government policy on regulation?

MM: “No I can’t think that this is a knee jerk reaction because all the reports are that this has been a four-year investigation.”

“It may well look like the timing is coincidental, but I don’t think it is in response to anything in particular.”


What are the potential punishments?

KM: “Expulsion from the Premier League is a possibility, but I think it is unlikely.”

“Fines are at the lighter end of the scale, and we could see points deductions like we see in the EFL for breaches of financial fair play.”

“I think that a guilty verdict would make the position of the board fundamentally untenable in the sense that guilt would be confirmation of the allegations that City have systematically misrepresented their accounts for a long time.”

MM: “I don’t think there is much limitation in what the commission can do in terms of going back, but the sanctions of the commission would apply in the year when the decision is made.”

“It is impossible to know what the gravity of the allegations are, but it’s a hell of a number of charges to be brought in one fell swoop.”

“I cannot believe that it would be sensible to say that in any given year Manchester City won the Premier League, that the punishment is that they are deemed not to have won it, it’s not much celebration for the team that finished second.”


How long until we can expect an outcome? 

MM: “If every single one of these allegations is contested and gone through, and from the club’s response, one would expect that to be the case, it could take years and years and years.”

“A previous investigation into just two allegations took over 18 months to complete, so any hope of this being dealt with quickly is really faint.”

KM: “I think it is optimistic to expect that could be done before the end of the present season.” 


Are some of the other free-spending teams in danger of similar charges?

KM: “I think there is no chance for a case against Chelsea because Chelsea have exploited, not broken the rules – they have applied the rules in a way they haven’t been dealt with before.”

“The reason is that if you sell a footballer, then all of the profit is taken immediately but if your buy a footballer, the cost of a player is spread over the life of a contract.”

(Featured picture under creative commons licence by Cleria De Souza)