Manchester City has launched a legal challenge to block UEFA’s pursuit of a Champions League ban for violating soccer’s spending regulations, The Associated Press has learned.
The Premier League champion has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to throw out the case that UEFA’s independent investigators passed to a panel of judges, people with knowledge of the case told the AP. They spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the ongoing investigation are confidential.
City is challenging UEFA’s right to send the Financial Fair Play case from the investigatory to adjudicatory chamber for a sanction to be imposed, the people said. The Abu Dhabi-owned club is claiming there is no case to answer, challenging the legitimacy and haste of the investigation.
City declined to comment when asked about taking the case to CAS but previously said the referral to UEFA judges "ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City."
The UEFA investigation was sparked by leaks of City’s internal correspondence and documents to German outlet Der Spiegel.
The leaks implied City deceived UEFA for several years, including by hiding that revenue from potentially overvalued commercial deals came from the club’s owners in Abu Dhabi to curb losses and comply with UEFA regulations that limit spending on transfers and wages. City hasn’t disputed the authenticity of the documents.
A separate person with knowledge of the case said City has provided conflicting answers to some questions to investigators before the case was sent to the UEFA chief judge Jose Narciso da Cunha Rodrigues of Portugal, who also sits at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
UEFA rules limiting cash injections from wealthy owners requires potentially overvalued sponsor deals linked to those owners to be made at a fair market rate.
The chief investigator in the case was Yves Leterme, a former prime minister of Belgium.
Meanwhile, UEFA said its club finance judges have put on hold their verdict on AC Milan’s latest set of non-compliant accounts pending a CAS ruling on the club’s appeal against a previous round of sanctions.
Milan is challenging a UEFA verdict in December that deducted 12 million euros ($13.5 million) of Europa League prize money this season. UEFA also threatened a one-season ban from UEFA competitions if the club does not break even on its FFP assessment by 2021.
Milan has struggled to comply with UEFA’s rules during a failure to qualify for the lucrative Champions League that has now stretched to six seasons.