Man City face UEFA repercussions
European football's leader-ship has an initial conclusion on leaked Manchester City correspondence: The club has been misleading UEFA over its finances.
With the power to ban clubs from the Champions League, the consequences from UEFA could be severe for the Premier League champions.
UEFA discovered from reading internal emails from City, which were published by German media outlet Der Spiegel last month, the extent of schemes by the club to allegedly cover up the true source of income in a bid to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the situation publicly, while UEFA conducts a review of the City case.
City have been transformed into an English football power in the decade since being bought by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, winning the Premier League three times since 2012. But unfettered spending on players has been restricted by European football's governing body - regardless of the owners' wealth.
City have already been punished by UEFA for violating FFP, striking an agreement in 2014 that saw the team fined rather than banned from the Champions League for inflated sponsorship deals with companies linked to the club or its ownership.
UEFA publicly said last month that evidence from "Football Leaks" could lead to past cases being reopened. The person with knowledge of the situation said it was more feasible to use the leaks to reassess the candour of club executives and as a basis to judge City's compliance with FFP in the current three-year assessment period.
That covers 2015 when Der Spiegel said emails were being sent internally at City showing the manipulation of sponsorship revenue from Etihad Airways, the state-owned airline from Abu Dhabi, which is the naming rights sponsor of City's stadium and training campus, as well as appearing on jerseys. The sponsorship was said to generate £67.5 million annually for City. But City's holding company - the state-backed Abu Dhabi United Group - channelled £59.9 million back to Etihad, according to Jorge Chumillas, the club's chief financial officer, in an internal email to club director Simon Pearce.
City have not disputed the authenticity of any emails published by Der Spiegel over the last month. Given the fresh insight into City's financial dealings, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has said there was a "public interest" in the correspondence being leaked, while questioning how it was obtained.
UEFA is examining whether to open disciplinary cases against individuals at City involved in attempts to provide a misrepresentation of club finances to the governing body's FFP accessors, another person with direct knowledge of the situation said. The person, who did not identify any individuals, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the City case.
A challenge for UEFA is getting City to provide information from related companies in Abu Dhabi that the leaks show are central to compliance with FFP.