Manchester City braced for possible ban from $1.5 billion Champions League

CNN/ Newswire | 5/14/2019, 10:40 a.m.

Originally Published: 14 MAY 19 11:16 ET

By Ben Church, Steve Almasy and Euan McKirdy, CNN

(CNN) -- Investigators from European football's governing body will meet Thursday to decide whether Manchester City will be banned from competing in the lucrative Champions League, according to a member of the investigatory chamber.

The New York Times reported Monday that the newly crowned English Premier League champion could be banned from Europe's most prestigious club tournament over allegations of unfair financial practices.

Petros Mavroidis, a member of UEFA's Club Financial Control Body Investigatory Chamber, told CNN Sport he was surprised by the information contained in the report because no final decision had been taken.

The New York Times had reported that investigators would recommend a season-long ban.

CNN contacted another member of the CFCB who declined to comment.

City will have the opportunity to appeal any potential punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.

UEFA told CNN that they "do not comment on ongoing investigations regarding financial fair play matters."

Manchester City strenuously denies any financial wrongdoing and has welcomed the UEFA investigation, which is handled by the Club Financial Control Body Investigatory Chamber.

"Manchester City FC is fully cooperating in good faith with the CFCB IC's ongoing investigation. In doing so the club is reliant on both the CFCB IC's independence and commitment to due process," the club statement read.

"The New York Times report citing people familiar with the case is therefore extremely concerning. The implications are that either Manchester City's good faith in the CFCB IC is misplaced or the CFCB IC process is being misrepresented by individuals intent on damaging the Club's reputation and its commercial interests. Or both."

City has always maintained that accusations of "financial irregularities are entirely false."

UEFA has been investigating the club for possible breaches of its Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations since leaked files were reported by Der Spiegel.

FFP rules are supposed to stop clubs from getting into unmanageable debt or allowing wealthy benefactors to give top teams an unfair advantage.

Der Spiegel cited club documents gathered by the independent Football Leaks investigative project, which the German publication says show the club inflated sponsor fees when the club spent more than expected.

These types of sponsorship deals allowed the club to circumvent UEFA's financial rules designed to create a more level playing field, according to Der Spiegel.

CNN has not seen the documents referred to in reports from Der Siegel, which was first to report the accusations of financial improprieties.

READ: Manchester City celebrates Premier League title with impromptu Noel Gallagher gig

The Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's investment company Abu Dhabi United Group owns Manchester City.

Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of the Emirates, is the club's shirt sponsor and has naming rights for its stadium.

But Der Spiegel, citing club documents, alleged the airline financed only part of the sponsorship deal, with ADUG coming up with the rest.