The latest exposure of alleged financial doping at Manchester City has left UEFA officials ‘shocked’, with the lawyers at European football’s governing body now examining how action might be taken against the English champions.
According to UEFA insiders the steady flow of allegations this week by Der Spiegel, based on documents allegedly seized by hackers Football Leaks, has stunned the regulators of Europe’s Financial Fair Play rules.
FIFA president and former UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said this week he expected UEFA to take further action if new evidence surfaced and by Thursday probes into City were looking increasingly likely. While such an outcome still seems unlikely, potential sanctions if claims were to be proved could extend to a ban from the Champions League.
Sportsmail understands there are certain challenges facing UEFA’s legal team, the main concern being the method by which the allegedly genuine documents were obtained by Football Leaks. If they were indeed seized illegally, that could present its own challenges in a potential legal battle with City’s lawyers.
Right now UEFA are not even in possession of any alleged evidence, and do not have the legal authority to demand material from either Der Spiegel or City. It is also possible any such evidence could fall outside UEFA’s statute of limitations on such matters.
But every club is subjected to an annual ‘break even assessment’ and sources in Nyon seem to think that could well be where City could run into serious difficulties with FFP regulations, given that the sponsorship deals that have allegedly been financed by club owner Sheik Mansour remain in existence.
It was in 2011 that City announced their staggering £400million stadium and shirt sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways and it was scheduled to run for 10 years. At the time observers suggested the ‘numbers just don’t stack up’ when compared to similar deals at other football clubs.
When signed, the deal was the biggest of its kind in sporting history. Now, Der Spiegel alleges, Mansour is paying the vast majority of the money himself, as appears to be the case with other sponsorship deals as well as the arrangement they have with a separate company for the payment of player marketing rights.
City reiterated on Monday night that they ‘will not be providing any comment on out of context materials purportedly hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Man City personnel and associated people’.
A statement from Etihad said: ‘The airline’s financial obligations, associated with the partnership of the club and the broader City Football Group, have always been, and remain, the sole liability and responsibility of Etihad Airways.’
Aabar and the Abu Dhabi tourism authority were unavailable for comment.
On Friday, it was claimed that City paid more than half of former manager Roberto Mancini’s salary via a sports club in Dubai, in what Der Spiegel claims is another alleged attempt at hiding costs.
Der Spiegel say the current Italy coach signed two contracts on the same day, one for being an adviser to the Sheikh Mansour-owned Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club which was for £1.75 and another for City – with a base of £1.45m before bonuses.
The leaks also, according to Der Spiegel disclosed the salaries City pay their players. Leroy Sané, the 22–year-old Germany international. was guaranteed £157,000 a week over three years following his arrival in 2016, while Sergio Aguero is paid £346,000 a week.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan earned £184,000 per week last year, the report added.