Manchester City hit with two-year ban from Champions League

British soccer club Manchester City, one of the most successful and valuable sports teams in the world, was barred from Champions League competitions for two years and fined 30 million euros (US$32.5 million) for what European soccer’s governing body said were “serious breaches” of its licensing and fair-play regulations.

Manchester City, which won the domestic English title last year, is owned by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the half-brother of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The team has denied wrongdoing and is expected to appeal the ruling, issued Friday (Feb 14), to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If it stands, the decision by the Union of European Football Associations would force Manchester City to miss two years of the Champions League, in 2020-21 and 2021-22. The Champions League is the annual competition to crown Europe’s top club team, and is one of the biggest commercial soccer events on the calendar, with the final drawing hundreds of millions of TV viewers worldwide.

The US$32.5 million fine pales in comparison with the money the team would make if it qualified for the Champions League and went on a deep run. In 2017-18, for example, Manchester City reaped about $72.6 million in Champions League money, according to Forbes.

The issues stem from financial fair-play rules that UEFA imposed in 2011 to prevent deep-pocketed teams from pouring unlimited funds into player acquisition. UEFA said that between 2012 and 2016, Manchester City overstated sponsorship revenue in budget information that teams submit to the governing body. That allowed the team to spend more on players than it should have.

UEFA’s adjudicatory committee also said the club failed to cooperate in the governing body’s investigation.

Man City is worth $2.69 billion, according to Forbes.