Manchester City are still reeling from the news that they have been hit with a two-year Champions League ban for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations (FFP).
As well as a £25m fine, Pep Guardiola’s side have been expelled from Europe’s premier competition and now risk further punishments in domestic football.
There are even suggestions that the entire foundations of City’s success in the modern era are now under threat.
A backdated points deduction could see their 2014 title taken off them and some experts believe they could be expelled from the Premier League altogether and thrown into League Two.
But let’s hold our horses a second.
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City are going to fight tooth and nail to clear their name. At the very least, they hope to see their two-year UEFA ban reduced to a single season.
BBC Sport have provided detail of how the club plan to appeal and they have already assembled what they believe is a strong case.
- Firstly, that they did not breach FFP regulations in the first place, even though UEFA has already found them guilty.
- That UEFA pre-determined its decision before a proper investigation due to leaks in the media.
- That the leaked e-mails, which allegedly show that City deceived the governing body, published by German publication Der Spiegel, were obtained illegally via hacking. If that is the case, they may be inadmissible as evidence.
- That their punishment is disproportionate to other clubs and a two-year ban is excessive.
- That it was wrong for UEFA to judge the case and an independent party should have been brought in.
So – do City have a case?
However confident and defiant City remain, it’s warned there are a number of legal challenges ahead.
For City to prove hacking, they would need access to private e-mails and correspondence, so they would need special disclosure.
Der Spiegel’s source is a man called Rui Pinto – the figure behind Football Leaks – who is currently awaiting trial for computer hacking, charges which he denies.
Regardless of how the incriminating documents were obtained, City do not deny they are genuine.
They also knew what they were signing up to in UEFA competitions.
These factors are unlikely to stop City’s protests as they now head to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
City have the resources to do battle with the best lawyers in the business and leading lawyer John Mehrzad, per the same source, has predicted how they will argue their case.
“In terms of the adjudicatory chamber members’ expenses and appointments, they are at the behest of UEFA,” he said.
“City will say they had no choice but to sign up to these rules, and we’ve seen this argument of a lack of freedom used by claimants in key sports cases in the past.”
As for UEFA, there is a huge amount riding on the case. If City get off scot free, it could have serious implications for their campaign against football’s super-rich, as they have particular concerns about clubs being effectively bankrolled by nation states.
One of the best possible outcomes for the English champions now is that UEFA fear being drawn into a long-drawn-out legal battle and agree to a settlement which includes a lesser suspension.
In the next few days, City will launch both a formal appeal and a request that the ban be suspended.
Whether the latter is successful could indicate whether they have a solid argument going forward in this unprecedented case.