(Reuters) – The Premier League has referred Manchester City to an independent commission over more than 100 alleged breaches of finance rules since the club were acquired by the Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group.
The referral came weeks before the expected publication of a government white paper set to recommend the establishment of an independent regulator in English soccer to deal with the game’s finances, club ownership and corporate governance. City, the world’s highest revenue-generating club last season according to Deloitte, are alleged to have committed multiple financial breaches between 2009 and 2018, the league said on Monday.
League rules state that charges such as those faced by City could, if proved, result in a club being expelled from the Premier League in the worst-case scenario.
Offending clubs may alternatively be deducted points, fined or reprimanded. While it remains to be seen what sanctions the commission imposes on City, a stricter stance by the Premier League on club finances could deter potential investors in clubs like Manchester United, according to a sports finance lawyer.
Both Manchester United and Liverpool are seeking new investors, in large part due to Middle Eastern investment in clubs such as City and Newcastle United and the collapse of a planned Super League, industry experts have told. City, who were acquired by City Football Group in 2008, are also charged with failing to cooperate with the Premier League’s investigation, which was launched in December 2018.
City are alleged to have breached rules relating to the provision of accurate financial information, “in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs”, the league said.
The club, who have won the Premier League title six times since the Abu Dhabi takeover, said they were surprised by the league’s “issuing of these alleged breaches”. “The club welcomes the review of this matter by an independent commission, to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position,” City added.
The charges stem from a Premier League investigation into City’s financial dealings launched four years ago, after the release of a tranche of “Football Leaks” documents obtained by the German publication Der Spiegel.