In response, the team said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision and would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international judicial body, as soon as possible.
“Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA,” their statement read. “With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible.”
In its statement, UEFA said that the club committed “serious breaches” of its Financial Fair Play rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue” from 2012 to 2016.
It is the harshest punishment handed out by UEFA for violation of its Financial Fair Play rules. The regulations were instituted in 2011 to prevent excess spending, both by clubs with pockets deep enough to swamp competitors and by those who could accrue a dangerous amount of debt collecting talent. Under the limits, a club’s soccer-related expenses,such as transfer fees, cannot exceed its money raised by ticket sales, TV deals and other commercial endeavors by more than a set amount.
In November 2018, the German newspaper Der Spiegel published leaked documents alleging that Manchester City had inflated the value of a sponsorship deal to deliberately mislead UEFA about its player spending. This prompted an investigation.
Manchester City, which possesses one of the most talent-rich rosters in the sport, is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi. According to Forbes, Manchester City is valued at $2.69 billion, fifth among all soccer clubs in the world. The club often spends large amounts to bring in new players via transfer. In 2014, the first year that UEFA handed down FFP punishments, Manchester City was fined $63 million for excessive spending.
The Champions League ban could have serious ripple effects on the club and its roster. The tournament, reserved for the top clubs from Europe’s best leagues and the most prestigious professional soccer competition in the world, is a major financial opportunity for clubs and a serious draw for top players. Clubs get paid with every round of the tournament they reach, beyond the initial group stage. The winner of the 2019-2020 Champions League could receive up to $89 million.
By missing out, City could also see some of its star players look for an opportunity to play in the Champions League with other clubs. Pep Guardiola, one of the most decorated and sought-after managers in world soccer, might also be at risk of leaving.
City will continue to compete this season’s Champions League. The club is set to face Real Madrid in the two-leg round of 16 on Feb. 26 and March 17.