The Hard Tackle assesses the two-year European ban that has been handed to Manchester City and the implications that come along with it.
It is a ruling that has sent shock waves across Europe and beyond. What started as an expose by a German magazine has eventually ended up with a groundbreaking suspension decision. Many would perhaps, argue that Manchester City’s ways have caught up with them, while fans, like the club, will allege bias.
So what exactly is the ban that has been handed out to Manchester City? UEFA have suspended the reigning Premier League champions for two years – beginning from the 2020-21 season – from participating in UEFA club competitions after the “Adjudicatory Chamber” found the club to have committed “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play regulations.
In addition, UEFA have also fined City €30 million. The heavy punishment is a result of the club overstating its sponsorship revenue and break-even information, both in their accounts and in the information they submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016.
Manchester City, though, released a statement almost immediately after UEFA’s ruling, determined to fight the ban by lodging an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sports. The English giants also alleged that the entire process was “flawed”.
Now, while Manchester City will continue to feature in the UEFA Champions League this season, there could be serious implications for the coming two years, if their appeal is unsuccessful. There are already rumours swirling around that there could be severe punishment meted out by Premier League as well. However, the effects could be even far reaching.
Pep’s Farewell Looms?
The biggest question to emerge out of the ruling is those surrounding Pep Guardiola’s future at Manchester City. Widespread speculation is rife about what is to come next for the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona manager.
While Guardiola has previously insisted that he will not leave City at least until the expiration of his current contract, which runs out in 2021, the rumour mill is abuzz with links to Juventus. However, Guardiola’s demeanour while talking of the ban suggests that he perhaps, intends to go nowhere just yet.
Having said that, if the decision is indeed upheld, it could be a body blow on several levels, considering Guardiola’s primary task was to deliver a Champions League title. While Manchester City could still win the competition this season, failure to do so coupled with an impending expulsion might just be the deal breaker.
It is worth noting that Guardiola has not won the Champions League for nearly nine years now and a European suspension would extend that barren run to over a decade, provided Manchester City are unable to win the competition this season.
Having already achieved just about everything there was to in domestic competitions, there is very little that Guardiola needs to prove, although Liverpool’s cruise towards this season’s Premier League title means he could be intent on putting City back on the summit of English football. For now, it all remains speculation, but Pep’s time at City might as well be up.
Players Present and Future
The absence of Champions League football should invariably have an effect on the futures of current players while also impacting the Citizens’ ability to attract the best players, at least for the next two seasons.
Explosive claims by sports lawyer John Mehrzad suggest that several Manchester City players could depart the Etihad on free transfers. Mehrzad has claimed that Manchester City’s breach of UEFA regulations could be classified as a “breach of trust and confidence of City’s player contracts”.
As a result, the players – as well as coaching staff – could argue that their contracts were violated and could, therefore, be entitled to “walk out of the club” if the ban is upheld following an appeal to CAS. Even if that was not to be the case, the absence of Champions League football might just be a catalyst in itself to drive players out of the club by seeking a transfer.
Furthermore, Manchester City might go down the pecking order for prospective targets. Players might, and probably will, prefer a club that can offer Champions League football instead of going two years without playing in Europe’s premier club competition.
While Manchester City will unlikely have a shortage of money to swoop the best of players away to the Etihad, without Champions League football, attracting elite players might be a big ask. Truly, a litmus test for Manchester City, as far as their aspirations on the field are concerned.
An Additional Champions League Spot in the Offing?
Manchester City’s ban from European competitions does not just directly affect the club itself, but also fellow Premier League clubs. Should City finish in the top four as expected, the fifth-placed team will qualify for next season’s Champions League.
As things stand, Tottenham will take their place in the Champions League once again, but just one point behind them is a potential fairytale in the making. Sheffield United are currently placed sixth on the Premier League table and are within touching distance of a spot in the top five.
Should they manage to finish in the top five and provided Manchester City grab a top four finish, Sheffield United will have qualified for the Champions League in their first season back from the Championship. The bigger picture, though, is that the likes of Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United and Everton now have an extra spot to fight for to make their way to the Champions League.
As a direct result, the sixth-placed team will automatically qualify for the Europa League, thereby opening another European spot. This should invariably pave the way for higher intensity as far as the chase for the European places is concerned, ensuring an exciting run-in.
A Glimmer of Hope?
While another spot might open up for teams to make it to the UEFA Champions League, all is not lost yet for Manchester City. As iterated already, they intend to lodge an appeal with the CAS to rescind their ban after alleging that the process was “flawed”.
Manchester City have already iterated that they have “irrefutable evidence” to get their suspension overturned. A critical period beckons the Premier League champions and with the futures of Pep Guardiola and the players in the balance, the decision on their appeal will be awaited with bated breath.