Manchester City's Champions League ban has been lifted - so what does it mean for the club, Pep Guardiola and their rivals?
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced on Monday morning they had lifted the two-season suspension from European football which UEFA had imposed on City, and reduced their fine from €30m to €10m. City are now free to compete in the Champions League next season, having secured second place in the Premier League with a 5-0 win over Brighton on Saturday. But what are the wider implications? What was the case against Manchester City In February, Manchester City were banned for two seasons from the Champions League by UEFA for "serious breaches" of FFP rules and for failing to co-operate with the investigation. City were found to overstated sponsorship revenue and break-even information in accounts submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016. The investigation was opened following the publication of documents on the Football Leaks website and Der Spiegel in November 2018. City's appeal was heard in June 2020, after their attempts to have the case dismissed on procedural grounds in November 2019 were rejected by CAS. Why was the ban lifted? With CAS' written reasons to be published in the coming days, the exact reason for the ban being overturned is not yet clear. However CAS have indicated that "most of the alleged breaches" were "either not established or time-barred". While CAS has upheld City's punishment for failing to co-operate with the investigation - albeit reducing the fine from €30m to €10m - they have stated that "it was not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in UEFA's club competitions for MCFC's failure to co-operate with [UEFA's independent Club Financial Control Body - CFCB] investigations alone." "It's a huge victory for Manchester City," said sports lawyer Daniel Geey. "It appears they have been exonerated on all of the substantive UEFA FFP breaches. But they have still imposed a fine for the duty to co-operate." Why have they still been fined? Man City will still have to pay a €10m fine because of their failure to co-operate with the investigation. CAS explain this is because: "...considering i) the financial resources of MCFC; ii) the importance of the cooperation of clubs in investigations conducted by the CFCB, because of its limited investigative means; and iii) MCFC's disregard of such principle and its obstruction of the investigations, the CAS panel found that a significant fine should be imposed on MCFC and considered it appropriate to reduce UEFA's initial fine by two-thirds, i.e. to the amount of 10 million Euros." Can UEFA appeal this decision? Manchester City's battle with UEFA may not be over quite yet. "There is grounds now for UEFA to go to the Swiss Federal Tribunal," explains Geey. "It does happen on occasion in sports cases, but the grounds to be able to appeal those decisions are pretty narrow, usually based on procedural fairness, jurisdiction or public policy grounds. "For the time being at least, it's a very big victory for Manchester City." What about the Premier League investigation into Manchester City? As well as the UEFA investigation, Manchester City are also being investigated by the Premier League over financial issues, academy recruitment and third-party ownership. That Premier League investigation - which has been running since March 2019 - remains ongoing. What does the decision mean for City's involvement in the Champions League this season? City remain in this season's competition. They face Real Madrid at the Etihad on August 7, in the second leg of their last-16 tie. City have a 2-1 lead from the first fixture at the Bernabeu and if they hold onto that advantage they'll face either Lyon or Juventus in the quarter-finals. What does this mean for the European qualifying places in the Premier League this season? With Manchester City free to play in next season's Champions League, the top four sides in the Premier League will qualify for the competition's group stage. Teams which finish fifth and sixth in the Premier League will go into the 2020/21 Europa League group stage and the side finishing in seventh will go into the second qualifying round for that competition. However, if a team outside the Premier League top six (potentially Arsenal) wins the FA Cup - they will take one of the two Europa League group stage spots - and the team finishing sixth in the league would go into the second qualifying round. What's the wider impact for City? Financially, if City had been banned from European football for two seasons they could have missed out on as much as £200m in lost revenue (£100m per season) on top of their original €30m fine. A ban would also have raised questions over the futures of star names and manager Pep Guardiola, while transfer targets may have been put off a move to the club and preferred other destinations where they could play in the Champions League. But those worries are behind City now, with them free to play in the Champions League. Financially, if City had been banned from European football for two seasons they could have missed out on as much as £200m in lost revenue (£100m per season) on top of their original €30m fine. A ban would also have raised questions over the futures of star names and manager Pep Guardiola, while transfer targets may have been put off a move to the club and preferred other destinations where they could play in the Champions League. But those worries are behind City now, with them free to play in the Champions League. What does it mean for Pep Guardiola? City manager Pep Guardiola had been convinced City would have their two-year ban overturned. "I'm so confident, because I know and hear the arguments of the club, next season we will be there," he said recently. Guardiola - who won the Champions League twice with Barcelona but hasn't added another to his collection since 2011 - is contracted with Man City until the end of the 2020/21 season. It remains to be seen whether the Spaniard will look to extend that deal in the future - but City's chances of retaining him as manager have been boosted by news of their Champions League ban being lifted.