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City overturns two-year ban from Champions League

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The verdict by three judges clears the team coached by Pep Guardiola to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season.

Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester no matter what happens in the courts. Picture: Reuters

GENEVA – Manchester City successfully overturned its two-year ban from the Champions League on Monday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld City’s appeal against the Uefa ban, but imposed a €10 million fine for failing to co-operate with investigators.

The verdict by three judges clears the team coached by Pep Guardiola to play in the group stage of the Champions League next season. The case does not affect City’s place in this season’s competition, which resumes next month.

City’s win guarantees tens of millions of dollars in Uefa prize money next season. It also protects against players leaving to seek Champions League action with another club.

Guardiola had pledged to stay in Manchester “no matter what happens” in the courts.

Uefa punished Man City in February for “serious breaches” of rules monitoring club finances and failing to co-operate with investigators. The allegations included that City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, misled Uefa over several years to meet financial integrity rules – known as Financial Fair Play – required to enter European club competitions.

City denied wrongdoing, and said it had “irrefutable evidence” the claims were not true.

The urgent ruling came one month after a three-day hearing held by video link between Switzerland and England. A full verdict detailing the evidence, expert witness testimony and the judges’ reasons is unlikely to be published for at least several weeks.

Uefa-appointed investigators opened a case after leaked club e-mails and documents from City officials were published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. They were likely obtained by a hacker from Portugal.

The published evidence appeared to show City deceived Uefa by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hid the source of revenue linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi.

City never disputed the documents were authentic, but argued the evidence was stolen and reported out of context.

Uefa had previously signed off on City’s submitted accounts since 2014. That year, Uefa fined City €20m of their Champions League prize money in a first wave of assessments of European clubs’ finances.

Uefa could choose to challenge the CAS ruling at Switzerland’s supreme court. Federal appeals in CAS cases rarely succeed and only consider narrow grounds of legal procedure.

AP