Man City FFP: Citizens face government intervention as ‘attacked’ City could receive ‘substantial damages’

Joe Williams
Man City and European Super League logos
Man City could reportedly join the European Super League project.

The government have been tipped to get involved if Man City were to attempt to rejoin the Super League project if their legal battle against the Premier League fails.

Man City’s legal challenge against Premier League financial rules will be heard over the next two weeks, which could have hugely significant consequences for the English top flight.

The Premier League champions are challenging the league’s associated party transaction (APT) rules in a hearing which started on Monday and is set to last until June 21.

It is believed Man City will challenge the validity of the rules under UK competition law.

The Times, which first reported details of Man City’s claim last Tuesday, said the club were seeking to scrap the rules, which were first introduced in December 2021 following the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle and were most recently strengthened in February.

The rules are designed to ensure any commercial deal or player transfer between a club and entities with links to that club’s ownership are conducted at fair market value, so that club revenues are not artificially inflated.

If an arbitration panel declares the APT rules invalid, then clubs would effectively be free to do any commercial deals they wished without any independent judgement being made on whether those deals were for fair market value.

That could then in turn help clubs boost their declared revenue and give them greater leeway on transfer and wages spending under financial sustainability rules. There are fears it could lead to the clubs whose owners have the deepest pockets – Man City and Newcastle – effectively being in a league of their own in terms of spending.

It is unclear what, if any, bearing this claim could have on the separate matter of the 115 charges brought by the Premier League against City over alleged breaches of the league’s financial rules. A hearing in that case is expected to begin in the autumn. Man City strenuously deny any wrongdoing.

There have been rumours that Man City could attempt to rejoin the European Super League project if their legal action against the Premier League fails.

But former Everton CEO Keith Wyness reckons the government “would get involved” if the Citizens decided to give their support to a European Super League.

Wyness told Football Insider: “I think even the government would get involved if City were to try and rejoin the Super League project.

“They’ve got themselves into a position now where they are being attacked from every side.

“You can’t stay on the offensive, sometimes you have to pull back. They are part of a 20-club club, and that’s something City have forgotten.

“They have to try and play their role as partners in that, as well.”

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Former Man City financial adviser Stefan Borson insists the speculation over the Citizens rejoining the European Super League project is “a nonsense story”.

Borson told Football Insider: “I think it falls into that category of somebody briefing. There is no Super League, so that’s the starting point.

“Secondly, it’s likely by the time all of this situation is resolved, the independent regulator will be able to prevent clubs from leaving the Premier League and entering other competitions.

“I think it’s just not going to happen. It’s just a nonsense story.”

Borson thinks Man City are set to receive “quite substantial damages” from the Premier League if they win their APT case over the next couple of weeks.

He continued: “I think the fact City are claiming they made very substantial losses on the back of this rule suggests that a deal they felt should have been approved has been rejected by the Premier League.

“If that is the case and City were successful in the first hearing, then I think it’s more than possible that they would receive quite substantial damages.

“But I do think cases like this are very hard to win in the first instance.

“It is very likely that the Premier League took legal advice in terms of the competition aspects of the associated party rules from the start.

“It is likely the barristers that are acting on the Premier League’s side will also have strong arguments for why they comply with the competition act and, therefore, why City are wrong to challenge.

“City have got an uphill battle to win on liability. But if they were to do so, there could well be significant damages if they can show they have specific losses.”