The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned Manchester City’s European ban on Monday, a ruling that will allow the club to participate in the Champions League next season.

Manchester City CAS appeal FFP
Manchester City won its appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which overturned its two-year ban from European competitions. (Image: AFP/Getty)

City faced a two-year ban from all European competitions after the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) found the club guilty of violating UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules.

CAS Reduces Fine by €20 Million

The CFCB found that City broke FFP rules between 2012 and 2016. Those rules limit how much money teams can lose over a three-year period, and are designed to stop clubs from taking on disproportionate debt in an attempt to build short-term winners.

Initially, the CFCB hit City with a two-year ban from European competitions and a €30 million ($34.1 million) fine. The CAS ruling eliminated the ban and reduced the fine to €10 million ($11.36 million).

“The CAS award emphasized that most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB were either not established or time-barred,” CAS announced in a statement. “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 MCFC’s failure to cooperate with the CFCB’s investigations alone.”

The reference to “time-barred” breaches likely refers to the five-year statute of limitations that applies to the CFCB. City originally reached a settlement agreement over FFP violations on May 16, 2014.

UEFA reopened the case after the “Football Leaks” story broke in German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. The report included documents that alleged that City’s owners funneled money to sponsors like Etihad, then took that money back in the form of inflated sponsorships – artificially boosting the club’s revenue.

UEFA didn’t begin its new investigation until March 2019, and only referred the case to the CFCB in May. The CFCB announced the ban on Feb. 14, 2020.

City Among Favorites in 2019-2020 Champions League

In a statement, City said the judgment vindicated the club’s behavior.

“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), 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,” the statement read. “The Club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”

The decision throws a wrench into England’s European qualifying race. With City’s ban in place, and the club sitting in second place in the Premier League, it appeared as though the fifth-place EPL team would join the Champions League. Now, City will claim its Champions League spot, with fifth place going to the Europa League as usual.

The battle for the third and fourth positions could come down to a three-way race between Chelsea, Leicester City, and Manchester United. Leicester and Chelsea sit one and two points ahead of United, respectively, but Man U has a match in hand.

With the FFP case seemingly behind them, City can again focus on winning this season’s Champions League. PointsBet lists City as a +300 co-favorite along with Bayern Munich to win the title. The Champions League will wrap up next month with a single-elimination knockout tournament in Lisbon. First, City must finish off Real Madrid in their Round of 16 clash, with the English side holding a 2-1 lead and heading home for the second leg on Aug. 7.