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The Big Money Probe: What Lies Ahead For Man City As Relegation From Premier League Haunts Treble Kings? 

Prime Business Africa's Izuchukwu Okosi looks at what could be the likely outcome of the inquest into the financial dealings of Premier League and European champions, Manchester City.Would they be relegated from the top-flight as is being mooted, or would the Cityzens be stripped of their many PL diadems?

4 mins read

Manchester City were once referred to as the ‘yoyo’ team in the English Premier League. That term was commonly used in reference to teams that could be blown away by more illustrious (and rich) sides in the top division.

The teams with better resources thumped City and although they had some cult heroes in their ranks, nobody anticipated the kind of turnaround that happened at the club when new multi-billionaire owners from Abu Dhabi took over the club.

The club managed then by current Saudi Arabia head coach Roberto Mancini famously won the title in added time in the 2011/2012 season after a dramatic Sergio Aguero match-winner against Queens Park Rangers with city rivals, Manchester United also with a chance to lift the Premier League trophy on the final day of the campaign.

City were also successful under Manuel Pellegrini who replaced Mancini.

Pellegrini joined Manchester City in the summer of 2013 and led them to a Premier League and League Cup double in his first season. He won the League Cup again in 2015/16, while also claiming the Premier League Manager of the Month award on four occasions during his time at the club.

After the ‘underrated’ Pellegrini left City, the club heirachy then got former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola through the doors.

Guardiola did not win a title in his first season in charge but has overseen the following titles: 2017/18: Premier League, League Cup, 2018/19: Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Community Shield. 2019/20: League Cup, Community Shield, 2020/21: Premier League, League Cup, 2021/22: Premier League, 2022/23: Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, 2023/24: UEFA Super Cup.

Guardiola could also lead his team to the FIFA Club World Cup triumph starting on Tuesday, 12 December until 22 December in Saudi Arabia.

City have truly established themselves as a force not just in English football but in Europe. However, is the reputation of the club about to be ruined?

An investigation by the Premier League on alleged breaches of 115 Financial Fair Play rules has been set with huge points deduction still on the table.

The Premier League has referred the case to an independent commission.

Most clubs across Europe, including English clubs are bemoaning the riches of the states-owned clubs in the Gulf.

These clubs which City is one of the most successful have been able to buy some of the world’s best players.

Manchester City have been charged with breaking financial fair play rules around 100 times over a nine-year period, which starts in 2009 and goes on until 2018.

Man City won the Premier League three times in the period under review.

According to the Premier League, Man City allegedly broke the rules over nine seasons. They allegedly didn’t provide accurate financial information.

There are talks of falsification of the club’s financial books.

The Premier League’s financial fair play rules are designed to ensure clubs pretty much spend what they earn. You can get around that potentially by inflating how much you’re earning or hiding how much you are spending.

Thus City are said to not fully disclose the financial remunerations that were made to one of their managers over a four-year period. The suggestion is that there was a secret contract so one of the managers was getting paid much more than officially stated.

The Premier League also allege Man City didn’t comply with UEFA’s financial fair play rules over a five-year period. They also allege that Man City have not fully co-operated with the Premier League’s investigation.

In February 2020, the club were banned by UEFA from European competitions for two seasons and fined £26.8m but they heeded to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) which reversed the UEFA ruling with the fine reduced to £8.9m (€10m).

Premier League rules do not include time bar so when Man City defend themselves, they cannot say these alleged offences took place too long ago to be able to do anything about them.

According to Premier League rules, it can be a points deduction or even the threat of expulsion from the Premier League, although I think that would be an extreme punishment.

But, if it was a points deduction, it would be a deduction that would be in the current season, so if they were found guilty in a future season, that’s when the points deduction would be applied.

In the past when they’ve been investigated by UEFA, Man City have always insisted they have done nothing wrong. In February 2020, they were banned by UEFA from European competition for two seasons and also fined €30m (£26.8m).

Man City took that case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The ban was overturned and the fine was reduced to €10m (£8.9m). At the hearing, the panel found most of the breaches alleged were not established or the time was barred, which effectively means they happened too long ago for UEFA to do anything about them.

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Manchester City players celebrate with trophy after winning the 2022 English Premier League title at the Etihad Stadium

What punishments can the independent commission impose on a club?

1. Suspend a club from playing league matches

2. Points deductions

3. Recommend to the board that league matches be replayed

4. Recommend to the board that the league expels the respondent club

5. Order compensation

6. Cancel or refuse registration of players

7. Conditional punishment

8. Order the club to pay costs

The other ‘Big six’ clubs in England consisting of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are vigorously hoping that City are relegated.

According to various reports in the English media, handing a heavy fine to the multiple League champions or retrospectively stripping them of the titles they won won’t make much difference.

“There will not be much sympathy for City, who have won the Premier League six times in the last 11 years, if they are found guilty,” a report on Sky Sports read.

So what is the ramifications for City?

Prime Business Africa believes that the club will not be relegated to the Championship.

The crux of the case is a financial one and their big purses will be hit hard.

Like Juventus when they were demoted from the Serie A some seasons ago over the infamous calciopolio, some of the City players if still paid well, could agree to go down a division.

The stiffest punishment from a neutral perspective would be to strip the club of the titles they won in the period being investigated and barred from signing up players for upwards of three transfer windows.

The process would however take some time so rival clubs may have to wait a bit more.

A short ban and a heavy fine seem the logical idea.

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Izuchukwu Okosi is a Nigerian sports and entertainment journalist with two decades of experience in the media industry having begun his media journey in 2002 as an intern at Mundial Sports International (MSI) and Africa Independent Television (AIT), owners of Daar Communications Plc.

In October 2004, Okosi joined Complete Communications Limited, publishers of Complete Sports newspaper and Complete Football magazine as a reporter and later script writer for the Complete Sports studio.

He worked there for 13 years until October 2017.

Okosi also worked various times as Correspondent, Content creator and Editor at Sports Market International Magazine, Opera News, All Nigeria Soccer Media and Iconic Media Watch.

He also undertook freelance writing gigs for some local and international organizations.

Okosi is a member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Association of Voiceover Artistes of Nigeria (AVOA), Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

He has been part of cast in some Nollywood movies and radio dramas including Blood Money 2, Scores To Settle, Dead End 2, Another Campus Tale and Battle Line.

Aside mainstream media and the entertainment industry, he has interests in scouting/unearthing of talents in the sports and creative sectors, exports business and property development.

Izuchukwu Okosi is a Nigerian sports and entertainment journalist with two decades of experience in the media industry having begun his media journey in 2002 as an intern at Mundial Sports International (MSI) and Africa Independent Television (AIT), owners of Daar Communications Plc.

In October 2004, Okosi joined Complete Communications Limited, publishers of Complete Sports newspaper and Complete Football magazine as a reporter and later script writer for the Complete Sports studio.

He worked there for 13 years until October 2017.

Okosi also worked various times as Correspondent, Content creator and Editor at Sports Market International Magazine, Opera News, All Nigeria Soccer Media and Iconic Media Watch.

He also undertook freelance writing gigs for some local and international organizations.

Okosi is a member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Association of Voiceover Artistes of Nigeria (AVOA), Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

He has been part of cast in some Nollywood movies and radio dramas including Blood Money 2, Scores To Settle, Dead End 2, Another Campus Tale and Battle Line.

Aside mainstream media and the entertainment industry, he has interests in scouting/unearthing of talents in the sports and creative sectors, exports business and property development.

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