The Premier League’s 22nd round ended over two weeks ago, yet one story has stayed relevant. Even though Manchester United was the only top 5 team to come away with a victory, the biggest shock of the week comes from the blue side of the North West England city.
Monday the 6th, during the early morning hours, it emerged that after a 4 year-long investigation, the Premier League was alleging that Manchester City had breached over 100 fair play-related charges, spanning over 9 years. The club was accused of “not providing accurate financial information, in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs” between the 2009-2010 and 2017-2018 seasons. In addition, the Premier League has alleged that the club did not comply with UEFA regulations surrounding financial fair-play and club licensing, only partially disclosing Roberto Mancini’s payment during the 4 years he was in charge and players’ wages, and breaching the league’s rules on profit and sustainability during a 3 year period.
While City were surprised by the charges, they have expressed their disagreement with the claims they have not cooperated with the Premier League. They have stated that they fully welcome an independent review of what they call a “comprehensive body of refutable evidence” of their innocence. The club further noted the timing of the accusations, believing it to be linked to the Football Governance White Paper, which was supposed to be released this week, but has now been pushed back to later this month.
The biggest question regarding Manchester City, however, is what possible consequences the club could face and what that would mean for the league as a whole. If City are charged, the panel would have the choice between a range of different options, some of which could significantly change the current Premier League table, the next season, and, of course, the other clubs.
The potentially least damaging consequence that the club could face would be a fine. Manchester City is the 6th-highest-valued football club in the world, estimated at $4.25 billion, and therefore probably wouldn’t feel the weight of the consequences. A slightly more harmful punishment could include a spending limit or a transfer ban, however City’s squad is already a significantly strong side, especially with the July signing of Norwegian international Erling Haaland for £51 million.
Undoubtably one of the biggest penalties Manchester City could face would be a point deduction. While the season is only just over halfway through, the club is 2 points behind Arsenal, who are a game behind. The London club has had an incredibly strong season thus far, with 17 wins out of 23 and having lost only 3 games. City faced the Gunners last Wednesday, earning a 3-1 victory and eclipsing the North London side, before a 1-1 draw to Nottingham Forest put them back in second only 3 days later. They still face Arsenal once more, at home, and could easily make up for the gap in points, but a point deduction could make the club’s title run that much more difficult. The number of points deducted would be decided by the panel, once that consequence would be selected as the appropriate punishment, but a similar case involving Juventus recently saw the Turin club lose 15 points. If City were to be deducted the same amount, it would bring their point total to 37, placing them just below Fulham in 7th place.
With 14 games still to play, it certainly would not impossible for Manchester City to climb their way from 7th back up into the top 4 in time, but manager Pep Guardiola has previously suggested that he would leave the club, if he were to discover that he had been misled by the owners. In May 2022, he said: “I truly, truly believe. Why did I defend the club and the people? It’s because I work with them. When they are accused of something I ask them, ‘Tell me about that’. They explain and I believe them. I said to them, ‘If you lie to me, the day after I am not here. I will be out and I will not be your friend anymore. I put my faith in you because I believe you 100 per cent from day one and I defend the club because of that’.” If Pep Guardiola is to leave Manchester City, the ramifications will be big. Their players will still be great and their value will still be massive, but what he has done for the club and the way that he has led it to victory year after year, collecting countless of trophies will be difficult for any manager to try to replicate. Guardiola’s future would be up for discussion too. No doubt several clubs would happily take the Spaniard but it would be difficult for him to find a bigger club than Manchester City, especially if he were to stay in Premier League.
His aforementioned trophy collection is also part of one of the possible consequences. Manchester City might be stripped of all honours that they have achieved since the 2009-2010 season, including 6 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, 6 Carabao Cups and 3 Community Shields. Manchester United and Liverpool, who placed second during City’s title years would therefore each be awarded 3 league wins respectively.
Lastly, the club could face a complete expulsion from Champions League and, most detrimental, the Premier League, and if that option is selected, it would be down to a majority vote between the other league clubs. So far, 9 clubs have voted in favour of a Champions League exit, and Guardiola have named the clubs in question: Arsenal, Burnley, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle, Tottenham and Wolverhampton. Earlier this week, he commented: “[They] wanted us out of the Champions League when they wanted that position. It is said there are not enemies or friends, just interests. They want to put it out to take that position we won on the pitch.” An expulsion from the Premier League would put the club anywhere from the Championship to League Two in the third division, where the club has already played during the 1998-1999 season. The club would undoubtably be back in the Premier League as quickly as possible in such a case, but they could potentially face a massive loss in TV- and sponsorship revenue, due to the minimal amount of televised games.
Depending on the penalty, City will either face a massive set back or a minor inconvenience, but a potential lack of consequences will undoubtably send a strong message to every other team in the Premier League and around the world. If the club is not properly punished for such a massive scaled breach, it could be seen as inspiration for other teams to commit similar offences, and it would be seen as hypocrisy or favouritism if other teams would be penalised.
If Manchester City are found guilty, it’s unlikely to predict the exact effects it will have on the EPL and the club, but it certainly will mean that no team is above the law, regardless of wealth, power or honours. Though the consequences of City’s potential punishments are hard to predict, it might cost them more than this year’s Premier League title.