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UAE-owned Manchester City’s ban from European football overturned

Club instead will pay a £10m fine for violating Financial Fair Play regulations, Court of Arbitration for Sport rules
Club chairman Khaldoon Mubarak (left) and owner Sheikh Mansour (middle) attend a Manchester City game in 2010 (AFP)

Manchester City’s two-year ban from European football was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday.

The Abu Dhabi-owned club were initially handed a €30m fine and banned from European club competitions for two years after Uefa, European football's governing body, ruled that City had committed “serious breaches” of its Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) ruled in February that Manchester City had overstated sponsorship revenue in accounts submitted to it between 2012 and 2016, and that the club had failed to cooperate with its investigation.

The probe was sparked after leaked documents published by German magazine Der Spiegel suggested that City's owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan - a senior member of Abu Dhabi's ruling royal family - was mostly funding the club's £67.5m ($85m) annual sponsorship in 2015-2016. 

One leaked email suggested that only £8m of the club's sponsorship for that season was funded directly by Etihad, City's main sponsor, with the remaining £59.5m coming from Mansour's Abu Dhabi United Group.

The CAS lifted the ban and reduced the fine from €30m to €10m after finding "most of the alleged breaches reported were either not established or time-barred".

"As the charges with respect to any dishonest concealment of equity funding were clearly more significant violations than obstructing the CFCB's investigations, it was not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in Uefa's club competitions for Manchester City's failure to cooperate with the CFCB's investigations alone," CAS said in a statement on Monday. 

Uefa acknowledged the decision, stating that FFP regulations had “played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and Uefa and ECA [European Club Association] remain committed to its principles”. 

Meanwhile, Manchester City welcomed the ruling in a statement on the club website. 

“While Manchester City and its legal advisers are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” it said. 

Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the UAE and half-brother of UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, acquired Manchester City in September 2008 for £150m. 

The club is chaired by Emirati businessman Khaldoon al-Mubarak, who is also the CEO of Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company. 

Since the takeover, Manchester City have won four Premier League titles, five League Cups and two FA Cups. 

However, they have not yet succeeded in winning European football’s top prize, the Uefa Champions League. City remain hopeful of winning the premier European club competition this season, and will play the second leg of their last 16 tie with Real Madrid on 7 August. City won the first leg in Madrid back in February 2-1.