Manchester City have successfully overturned their two-year ban from European club competitions.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) announced the club were cleared of “disguising equity funds as sponsorship contributions”.
Uefa issued the ban in February after ruling City had committed “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play regulations between 2012 and 2016.
City’s fine has been cut from 30m euros (£26.9m) to 10m euros.
In delivering the ruling on Monday, Cas said City did “fail to cooperate with Uefa authorities” but overturned the decision by Uefa’s club financial control body (CFCB) to ban them.
City said the decision was “validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present”.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered,” City added.
Cas’ ruling means City, who are guaranteed to finish second in the Premier League this season, will play in the 2020-21 Champions League.
In this year’s competition, Pep Guardiola’s side face Real Madrid in their last-16 second leg at Etihad Stadium on 7 August. They lead 2-1 from the first leg and will face Juventus or Lyon if they progress.
The Cas statement continued: “The award emphasised that most of the alleged breaches reported by the adjudicatory chamber of the CFCB were either not established or time-barred.
“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 Manchester City’s failure to co-operate with the CFCB’s investigations alone.”
On reducing the fine, Cas said that, while it considered “the importance of the co-operation of clubs in investigations conducted by the CFCB” and Manchester City’s “disregard of such principle and its obstruction of the investigations”, the Cas panel “considered it appropriate to reduce Uefa’s initial fine by two-thirds”.
It added: “The final award with reasons will be published on the Cas website in a few days.”
Uefa said it noted there was “insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred”.
The governing body added: “Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and Uefa and the European Club Association remain committed to its principles.”
What were City accused of?
Uefa launched an investigation after German newspaper Der Spiegel published leaked documents in November 2018 alleging City had inflated the value of a sponsorship deal, misleading European football’s governing body.
Reports alleged City – who have always denied wrongdoing – deliberately misled Uefa so they could meet FFP rules requiring clubs to break even.
On 14 February, the independent adjudicatory chamber of the CFCB said City had broken the rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”.
It added that City had “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.
City, who have been owned by Sheikh Mansour since 2008, were fined £49m in 2014 for a previous breach of regulations.
What was City’s case?
City failed in an initial bid to have Cas halt Uefa’s investigation in November last year.
After the two-year ban was announced, City said the process that led to it was “flawed” and “prejudicial” and immediately announced their intention to appeal.
They alleged they had been the victim of an illegal hack by people who had the express intention of damaging their reputation and that the emails were being used as the basis for reports which were being taken out of context.
City also believed the CFCB was not independent and ended up being distrustful of it, partly because of the amount of secretive information the club felt was leaked to the media.
Uefa could appeal against the decision in the Swiss federal courts.
It is unlikely that any such appeal would be heard before the 2020-21 Champions League starts.
The Premier League could have looked to take action as well if the ban had been upheld because their own FFP rules are similar – but not exactly the same – as Uefa’s