Sports law is an amalgam of laws that apply to athletes and the sports they play. It is not a single legal topic with generally applicable principles. Sports law touches on a variety of matters, including contract, tort, agency, antitrust, constitutional, labour, trademark, Sex Discrimination, criminal, and tax issues. Some laws depend on the status of the athlete, some laws differ according to the sport, and some laws vary for other reasons. Sports law ensures that players are given equal opportunities to participate in the particular field they choose. They ensure that players are not discriminated against due to their race, religion, or size. Everyone is entitled to a fair opportunity as long they have the skills and talent to play. There are limited slots in any particular sport so the selection process must be fair and the relevant laws used to ensure that that happens. Therefore in basic terms, it is laws, guidelines, and legal choices that administer sports and athletes.
This article tries to expound upon the explanation behind the boycott forced on the club, the legal body that investigates these issues (Court of Arbitration for Sport), certain rules of the UEFA that the different football clubs ought to follow and what’s in store for the club in the future.
Manchester City, a club from the Premier League, which is the top level of the English football system, had been found to have overstated sponsorship revenue and break-even information in accounts submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016. UEFA acted on the decision of the independent Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) following a hearing held in January 2020.
In the hearing that occurred, it came about that UEFA had opened an examination concerning City following a progression of new claims about the club in the media, drove by German magazine Der Spiegel. The UEFA investigation was led by the former Prime Minister of Belgium – he decided that Manchester City were guilty of wrongdoing. The club was additionally seen as guilty of “neglecting to participate in the investigation by the CFCB” and were banned from all European competitions in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons. They were likewise fined £24.9m for “genuine breaks” of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play and club permitting guidelines.
Manchester City’s Financial Fair Play case: The Timeline…..
May 2014 – City were handed a £49m fine by UEFA – £32m of which was suspended – for failing UEFA Financial Fair Play rules and were restricted to a 21-man Champions League squad for the 2014-15 season.
November 2018 – German magazine Der Spiegel, citing documents and emails provided by the whistle-blowing platform Football Leaks, published a series of articles that accused City of trying to get around European football’s FFP rules. City had repeatedly described Der Spiegel’s reports as the product of a “clear and organised” attempt to tarnish their reputation.
March 7, 2019 – UEFA announced it had launched a formal investigation into alleged breaches of FFP rules by City following a series of fresh allegations in the media. City said in a statement: “Manchester City welcomes the opening of a formal UEFA investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails. The accusations of financial irregularities are entirely false. The club’s published accounts are complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”
March 8 – The Premier League confirmed it was investigating City over alleged FFP breaches.
May 16 – UEFA’s club financial control body chief investigator referred City’s case to UEFA’s adjudicatory chamber following the conclusion of his investigation.
June 6 – City asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to throw out the FFP case brought against them by UEFA.
Nov 15 – City failed in their bid to get UEFA investigation kicked out.
Feb 14, 2020 – City were banned from UEFA club competitions for the next two seasons and fined £24.9m after being found to have “committed serious breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations”. City announced they would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations
The UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP) were established to prevent professional football clubs spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success and in doing so getting into financial problems that might threaten their long-term survival. They were agreed to in principle in September 2009 by the Financial Control Panel of football’s governing body in Europe (Union of European Football Associations – UEFA).
Regulations, which must be adhered to by all clubs participating in UEFA competitions, were drawn up in 2009 and introduced at the start of the 2011/12 season. Clubs must balance their books for three years. Income needs to be generated by the club, including for example matchday takings, TV revenue, advertising, sponsorship, player sales, and prize money.
The regulations provide for sanctions to be taken against clubs who exceed spending, over several seasons, within a set budgetary framework. These range from warnings and reprimands, to disqualification from competition, exclusion from future competitions, and being stripped of a title. Fines, points, deductions, and restrictions on the registration of players are also possible.
Manchester City’s Response
City in their statement released said that they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the findings, calling the UEFA process “flawed”. Their first move was to appeal against the sanctions to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) – the highest court in sport. It has presided over many high-profile cases in world football and it is where UEFA and Manchester City are going to go head to head.
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS; French: Tribunal arbitral du sport, TAS) is an international quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sport through arbitration. Its headquarters are in Lausanne (Switzerland) and its courts are located in New York City, Sydney, and Lausanne. Temporary courts are established in current Olympic host cities. Generally speaking, a dispute may be submitted to the CAS only if there is an arbitration agreement between the parties which specifies recourse to the CAS.
- In March 2011, CAS decided its first case on athlete biological passports (ABP) when it suspended two Italian cyclists, Franco Pellizotti and Pietro Caucchioli, for two years based on evidence from their blood profiles
- The court ruled in 2006 that Gibraltar had valid grounds for its application to join UEFA, forcing the organisation to hand it provisional membership. At the next UEFA Congress, however, Gibraltar was overwhelmingly rejected in a vote, due to lobbying from Spain, in defiance of the CAS ruling. Gibraltar subsequently became a member of UEFA in 2013. In May 2016 CAS partially upheld Gibraltar’s appeal against a decision by FIFA denying membership. The court did not grant FIFA membership but ruled that FIFA should grant a full membership as soon as possible. Gibraltar was granted membership at the FIFA Congress held later the same month.
- In 2010, the Irish Football Association (IFA) (the association of Northern Ireland) took its case to CAS after FIFA failed to prevent the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) (the association of the Republic of Ireland) from selecting Northern Irish-born players who had no blood link to the Republic. The CAS ruled in favour of the FAI and FIFA by confirming that they were correctly applying the regulations,
The three day hearing between the UEFA and Manchester City was conducted by video conferencing due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic situation. The hearing was concluded on Wednesday 10th June.
The Panel of arbitrators in charge of the matter, composed of Mr. Rui Botica Santos (Portugal), president, Prof. Ulrich Haas (Germany), and Mr. Andrew McDougall QC (France), will start its deliberations and prepare the Arbitral Award containing their decision.”
The decision of the CAS is expected to be issued during the first half of July 2020.
Manchester City had appealed to the CAS because the club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position. There can be three scenarios in the decision taken by the CAS namely:-
- The two-season ban may be upheld by the CAS.
- The CAS may overturn the ban in its entirety.
- The ban could be reduced from two seasons to only one season (2020-21).
City has been Champions League regulars for the past decade. An absence of European football would result in a major loss of revenue. Additionally, big-name transfer targets may be deterred and choose rival clubs, while current City players desperate for European glory could question their futures.
If Manchester City finish in the top four and their ban is upheld by CAS, it would mean a Champions League place would go to the team who finish fifth in the Premier League.
UEFA rule 4.08 states: “A club which is not admitted to the competition is replaced by the next best-placed club in the top domestic championship of the same association, provided the new club fulfills the admission criteria. So, the judgment of the CAS is awaited by all, from the UEFA to the Manchester City players and authorities and even other clubs who may get a chance to play in Europe’s most prestigious club championship by finishing in the fifth place. Ultimately whatever happens is at the discretion of the CAS..