English Premier League accuses Manchester City of violating league's financial rules

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 24: A general view of the outside of the Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City FC on March 24, 2021 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

The English Premier League has accused league powerhouse Manchester City of breaking financial regulations for nearly a decade.

The EPL said Monday that more than 100 instances of alleged rule-breaking had been referred to an independent commission after a lengthy investigation. City is accused of breaking the financial rules starting in the 2009-2010 season through the 2017-2018 season.

“In accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1, the Premier League confirms that it has today referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League rules by Manchester City Football Club to a commission under Premier League rule W.3.4,” the league said in a statement.

Per the EPL’s statement, City is accused of violating “the Premier League Rules applicable in those seasons that required provision by a member club to the Premier League, in the utmost good faith, of accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club's financial position, in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs.”

Manchester City’s City Football Group is largely owned by Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. City Football Group took control of the team in August of 2008 and Mansour and his ownership group immediately started pumping money into the team. Manchester City finished 10th in the EPL in the 2008-2009 season and fifth the following season. It has finished in the top four in each of the last 11 seasons and has won six EPL titles in that span. City is currently in second in the standings after losing on Sunday at Tottenham.

The team said in a statement that it was “surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with” and also said that it “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.”

Previous financial allegations against City

This isn’t the first time that City has been accused of financial wrongdoing since Mansour took over the club. The club was barred from UEFA’s lucrative Champions League for two seasons in February of 2020 for multiple violations of UEFA’s financial fair play rules.

City was fined over $30 million as part of the penalty and it was one of the most significant punishments ever handed out by UEFA in its attempt to govern team finances. The team was accused of inflating sponsor agreements to help offset expenditures on transfer fees for top players. Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is the title sponsor of City’s stadium and also has its name on the team's jerseys.

A ban from the Champions League would have been a significant hit to CIty’s annual revenues. The top four EPL clubs make the Champions League every season and teams in the tournament make over $16 million simply for qualifying.

But that ban was overturned less than six months later on procedural grounds. City pointed out that UEFA’s rules had a five-year statute of limitations on penalties relating to FFP violations. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overruled the ban in July of 2020 citing that rule and also said there was “insufficient conclusive evidence” against the team. The fine against the team was also reduced.

If it’s found guilty by the Premier League’s independent commission, City could receive a points penalty and get pushed down the league table. However, it seems unlikely that any penalty would come anytime soon and if City does receive a points deduction, the team will surely appeal the punishment.