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101 Breaches; What have (or haven't) Manchester City done?

Manchester City have this week found themselves at the heart of one of the biggest scandals in Premier League history.

The champions are accused of four different types of financial breaches, as well as obstructing the four-year investigation the Premier League has been carrying out into the club.

But what exactly does all of this mean? And what could happen to the champions? Should we even be calling them champions?

The first thing to note is that these charges have been brought following a four-year investigation. This is a good indication of how long these complex legal processes take.

That being said, the Premier League has appointed Murray Rosen, an experienced sports law expert, to head up a panel that will ultimately decide the punishment.

City fans needn't worry that he's an Arsenal fan either, because he'll have to appoint at least two other people to assist him in his investigation.

A very important distinction to understand at this point is the difference between the different charges and how many counts of those charges City face.

There are five charges, with a combined 101 counts.

The first and second charges are very similar. These involve failing to disclose full details of payments made to the manager (first charge) and players (second charge). The charges of payments to the manager run from 2009 to 2013, whilst the charges to do with player payments run from 2010 to 2016.

This essentially means that Manchester City are accused of making "shadow payments" to Roberto Mancini, who was the manager from 2009 to 2013, and players at the club between 2010 and 2016.

If this did happen, it would likely have involved undisclosed bonuses for winning competitions or remaining with the club for a certain number of seasons.

This is banned by the Premier League for several reasons. From a competitive point of view, it's drastically unfair to give secret incentives to players to remain with the club, potentially affecting or preventing transfer negotiations.

If other clubs are following the rules and are not doing what City are accused of doing, the other clubs will lose more players in transfer windows as they cannot pay as much money without breaking the rules. They may also lose out on transfer targets to clubs willing to breach these rules.

This leads nicely to the third charge against Manchester City, which concerns breaches of UEFA's Financial Fairplay Rules (FFP).

City were handed a two-year European Football ban in 2020 by UEFA following severe breaches of the FFP rules, but had it overturned by the Court for the Arbitration of Sport (CAS).

With the evidence from their investigation however, the Premier League believes it has enough new evidence to bring these charges once again.

This makes sense given the other charges brought against Manchester City. If they did in fact offer and/or provide shadow payments to players and to Roberto Mancini, this would violate the majority of FFP rules.

Whilst another European ban wouldn't specifically be possible given this is a Premier League investigation, not a UEFA one, if City are docked a significant amount of points or even relegated, they obviously wouldn't finish in a European place anyway.

Whilst breaching FFP is a UEFA rule, Premier League rules require clubs to follow all UEFA rules. Therefore, a breach of any UEFA rule is also a breach of Premier League regulations.

Charge number four relates to breaking the Premier League's "profitability and sustainability," (P&S) rules. These rules essentially limit the loss a club is allowed to make, and are similar in some ways to FFP.

The main difference, crucially, is that UEFA rules contain a statute of limitations that prevents any evidence older than five years old from being used. The Premier League does not have these rules.

Once again, the charges may well be connected. If Manchester City have been making these alleged "shadow" payments, they would have lost more money than they are reasonably allowed to lose.

This doesn't mean that City are throwing money down the drain, because P&S doesn't include all expenditures and profits.

But anything to do with football does count towards both P&S and FFP. Therefore, City may well have had significantly more footballing expenditure than footballing income. This is strictly not allowed.

Finally, Manchester City are charged with failing to cooperate in the investigations which revealed the first four charges.

The Premier League believes that the champions have concealed financial information and failed to uphold "good faith" whilst the investigation has been going on.

So Manchester City are charged with illegal payments, breaching UEFA and Premier League rules and obstructing the investigation into those breaches for good measure.

Given that the investigation has already taken four years, it won't be a quick verdict.

But if City are found guilty, what could happen to them? How much trouble are they in?

In short, a lot.

There are a whole list of potential sanctions City could be hit with. The independent commission can recommend clubs be docked points or even be expelled from the division.

Whilst this may seem extreme, consider for a second Manchester City are guilty.

It would mean that they've paid more money than any other club is allowed to offer, violated rules other clubs have been limited by, and even tried to deceive the Premier League.

As such, there are rumours that the other top six clubs are keen for City, if found guilty, to be expelled from the Premier League altogether.

Stripping them of their existing titles doesn't really achieve anything because it doesn't punish them from a financial point of view, it simply changes a technicality. Their punishment should target both the business side and the footballing side of the club.

It's unlikely that Manchester United would have a full-blown title celebration for a title that they would've won twelve years ago anyway.

This would also open up a whole can of worms because the clubs who finished fifth should have been in the Champions League.

Therefore, the punishment will likely affect City as and when a verdict is reached. This could be expulsion from the league but is more likely to be a transfer ban and/or a significant points deduction.

As mentioned before, a decent points deduction will also remove the team from the Champions League without technically banning them from Europe.

A range of financial and business sanctions are also possible, but if City are guilty, they absolutely have to have some kind of footballing punishment.

The long and short of it is that they may have cheated, and as is the case in sports or otherwise, cheating is punished.

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