UEFA announced on Thursday they are investigating Premier League champions Manchester City for possible Financial Fair Play (FFP) violations, per Rob Harris of the Associated Press:
The investigation will focus on allegations that have recently been published, according to Simon Stone at BBC Sport:
Manchester City have issued a statement in response to the announcement, per their official website.
"Manchester City welcomes the opening of a formal UEFA investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails. The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false. The Club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record."
The club have previously refused to comment on allegations reported in German newspaper Der Spiegel and said the claims "were based on hacked or stolen emails," per David Conn at the Guardian.
Manchester City are accused of "misleading UEFA over its finances" and allegedly covered up sources of income in an attempt to comply with FFP rules, according to Harris.
Nick Harris at Sporting Intelligence said the information appears credible:
Nick Harris @sportingintel
@dufflec1 @matthewsyed The evidence looks credible & nobody at City has contested its authenticity. I believe they have given it to Uefa. With City suggesting - without proof - it's stolen or hacked, Uefa *may* need to independently source it all as part of investigation 1/
The club could be banned from the UEFA Champions League if they are found guilty of breaking the regulations, according to Paul MacInnes at the Guardian.
UEFA's chief FFP investigator Yves Leterme said they could be hit with a stiff punishment in a January interview with Belgian magazine Sport and Strategy (h/t PA Sport via Sky Sports).
"If what has been written about Manchester City is true, there might be a serious problem," he said. "This can lead to the heaviest punishment—exclusion from UEFA competitions."
Goal's Sam Lee offered his view on the situation:
Sam Lee @Sammy_Goal
There are so many factors that will lead to a punishment or otherwise (admissibility of evidence, City’s co-operation etc). I think this one may be important, however: Galatasaray recently took Uefa to CAS, and CAS ruled that Uefa could not re-investigate a previous settlement https://t.co/FTq0B0CZKg
This is not the first time that Manchester City's finances have come under scrutiny by UEFA. The Citizens were fined £49 million and saw restrictions placed on their squad in 2014 after breaching FFP rules, per BBC Sport.
Manchester City have been transformed since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan took over the club in 2008. Club accounts have shown he has invested over £1.3 billion in the club since arriving, per Conn.
The club have invested heavily in their playing squad which has brought success on the pitch. They have won the FA Cup, League Cup and three Premier League titles since Mansour's takeover.
Pep Guardiola's side have already won the League Cup and remain on course to further add to their trophy cabinet this season. The club are top of the Premier League table and still in contention in the FA Cup and Champions League.
Yet their success may have come at a cost if they are found guilty of breaching FFP rules and banned from Europe's top competition, the one trophy that has eluded them so far.