The Premier League’s decision to accuse Manchester City of breaching its financial rules has shocked the domestic game.
The Premier League champions have become a dominant force in English football in recent years, winning six league titles since being taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008.
But how did City get there? How important are the fees? And could they really be kicked out of the Premier League?
BBC Sport answers key questions.
What have City been accused of?
After an investigation lasting more than four years, the Premier League issued a statement on Monday saying it had charged the city with more than 100 offenses financial rules from 2009 to 2018.
“In terms of charges, there are two areas,” football finance expert Kieran Maguire told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club.
“Firstly, the accusations that Manchester City artificially inflated the money coming into the club, particularly in relation to commercial and sponsorship deals. The Premier League appear to be claiming that the money actually came from the owner of the club, which does not count for FFP (financial fair play), but was disguised as sponsorship income, which counts for FFP.
“The other charges relate to Manchester City artificially deflating the running costs of the club by having managers contracted to another company linked to the owners so that they bear only a small element of the actual cost of management. of the club. club through the books.”
How did City get here?
In November 2018, the German newspaper Der Spiegel leaked documents published alleging City inflated the value of a sponsorship deal and deliberately misled UEFA so they could meet FFP rules which require clubs to break even.
Following the allegations, UEFA launched an investigation and ruled in 2020 that this city had committed “serious breaches” of FFP regulations between 2012 and 2016.
However, a two-year ban from European competitions has been canceled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cases) later that year.
The Premier League investigation began in December 2018. City said the allegations were “entirely untrue” and that Der Spiegel’s claims stemmed from “unlawful hacking and out-of-context publication of City’s emails”.
City said they were not given advance notice of the Premier League statement this week.
They questioned the timing given by the British government football governance white paper is due out this month.
It is felt that bringing this case will likely be used by the Premier League as evidence of dealing with governance issues itself rather than as a proposed independent regulator.
“It would be nice for the league to be seen as having teeth and taking a member – and a shareholder – so we are entering a period of lobbying and politics. There is little coincidence that the two things have happened [at the same time]”Maguire said.
“There’s an awful lot of dark arts of politics going on and football is being used as a vehicle for that. We’ve had a period of self-regulation in football and that has gotten us to where we are.”
BBC sportswriter Dan Roan said: “It’s easy to see why City insiders suspect the timing.
“While the timing is intriguing, the sheer number of charges perhaps shows why it’s taken the Premier League so long to get here.
“However, many would argue that the suggestion that this is linked to the delay in the football regulator white paper is a bit far-fetched. After all, the fact that it took the Premier League four years to bring charges reinforces without doubt the case of external regulation rather than undermining it.
“Also, if the Premier League had wanted to send a message to the government that it could self-regulate, surely it would have made that decision some time ago, before the regulator’s plans were finalised.”
How important is that?
“This is potentially the biggest financial scandal in Premier League history,” Roan said. “No club has ever faced such a catalog of charges.
“If cheating is proven, it would be detrimental to the dominant force of the English game, to its Abu Dhabi owners, to the concept of state-owned clubs and to the very idea that this is a fair competition.
“City could also lose Pep Guardiola, the manager warned him last year that he would quit if the club were found to have misled him into denying breaches of the rules.
“It could go on for months and cast a shadow over the Premier League in the process.”
Maguire said: “If Man City are guilty, there have been charges against other clubs and is that really creating a snowball?
“Some clubs lobbied against Man City. Is this now creating a vicious circle in the Premier League world where everyone is pointing fingers at each other.”
What did City say?
City said they were “surprised” by the charges, due to what they say was the “extensive undertaking and large amount of detailed documentation” they said had been provided to the Premier League.
“The club welcomes the review of this matter by an independent commission, in order to impartially consider the full body of compelling evidence that exists in support of its position,” read a statement.
“As such, we look forward to seeing this matter resolved once and for all.”
City are believed to be confident in their position, and that includes the charges that have been barred in their UEFA case. They believe they provided the relevant evidence regarding these charges to the Premier League some time ago.
What happens now?
The Premier League has referred City to an independent commission over alleged rule breaches.
The deliberations of the commission – chaired by Murray Rosen KC – will be confidential and heard in private.
Once the committee has made its decision, an appeal can be made to a separate appeals body within the Premier League, said sports lawyer Ashley Cukier.
“At this point, generally speaking, this is where the process will end,” Cukier said.
“It’s not like the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Case) where things can escalate at European level. It’s a Premier League case which is going to be dealt with at national level.”
What penalties are available?
If City are found guilty of rule breaches, the committee can impose penalties ranging from a fine and points deductions to expulsion from the Premier League.
“The potential fares are limitless,” Maguire said.
“It could be anything from ‘don’t do it again’, to a fine, a points deduction, stripping of Man City’s titles, or even ejection from the Premier League.”
In 2011 QPR escaped a points deduction but were a fine of £875,000 after being found guilty of breaching transfer rules, while Leicester and Bournemouth have been fined for breaking FFP rules when they were promoted to the Premier League in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively.
When Rangers entered administration in 2012, their Scottish FA and Scottish Premier League registrations were terminated and they were forced to start over at the bottom of the football pyramid.
Last month Italian side Juventus lost 15 points in Serie A following an investigation into transfer deals.
“I don’t see any restrictions in what they can do in terms of penalties,” Cukier said.
“The question for the commission will be what sanction it deems appropriate.”