by Tony Attwood
The key point to note from the latest Uefa rulings on what happens next in relation to football, is first that national leagues will not be banned from European competition if they don’t finish their seasons. That ruling has been overturned.
But more importantly from Arsenal’s point of view is that this change is now followed by a second ruling that leagues must decide for themselves how to determine final placings “based on sporting merit”.
As things stand in the Premier League, Manchester City are banned, meaning that the top four clubs to enter are quite clearly Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea and Manchester United.
However when we get to the three Europa places based on league position, then the “sporting merit” position changes from the league table, since Arsenal and Sheffield United have played only 28 games to Tottenham and Wolverhampton’s 29.
The obvious and logical approach to determine “sporting merit” at this point would be to work out the average points per game which been done in the penultimate column in the table below (PPG).
The positions of Sheffield United and Wolverhampton W are clear as they have the best points per game ratio. When it comes to working out the final place the answer is that Arsenal have a 0.02 superior points per game ratio to that of Tottenham, and thus would be above them in the table, and so claim the final Europa League place.
Of course, this all depends on Manchester City being excluded for crimes against football.
However Manchester City have put in an appeal to the Committee for Arbitration in Sport, and they, like all other committees, are not meeting at the moment. The CAS could increase the punishment, leave it as it is, reduce it to one season or remove it altogether. That final outcome would then mean that they have a place in the Champions League along with Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea.
That would then mean that Manchester United, Wolverhampton and Sheffield United would enter the Europa, leaving both Tottenham and Arsenal out in the cold.
The CAS situation is interesting, because if they do not meet in time to give a ruling about Manchester City’s appeal, then it could be argued that Manchester City are being penalised because justice is not being meted out in a timely manner.
To think about this I have tried to find out how long appeals processes take in English courts, but there is little guidance to be found beyond “Appeals can take a long time”. Another more informal answer was “Appeals take as long as they take”. And of course, in every case, people appealing feel aggrieved on the grounds that justice delayed is justice denied.
But in one way Manchester City will have themselves to blame, for it was their belligerent approach which, it may be argued, delayed the delivery of the first verdict. Plus, if Uefa doesn’t feel particularly moved to push CAS to reach a verdict quickly you can hardly blame Uefa after what Manchester City have threatened to do to them if the verdict is not reversed. (General rule in court procedures, don’t challenge the authority of the court during your case. It’s never a good move.)
Of course, this is all a matter for Uefa and CAS, and the (admittedly increasingly eccentric) “The Athletic” has recently said, “City’s case could be heard via video conference with the prospect of a face-to-face hearing off the table during the coronavirus pandemic.”
So they might get a hearing and it might go their way. That would then leave Sheffield United, Wolverhampton W, and Manchester United in the Europa and both Tottenham and Arsenal outside of the League.
As for Tottenham, their only route back into Europe is through having Manchester City banned and the league table allowed to stand without taking their extra game into account, or with the season being finished.
The last option seems unlikely, although it could be possible if a neutral venue is found to play the games out, and there is talk of this happening. Indeed I am hearing some news on this front at the moment and hope to cover it in an article in the next few days.
Tottenham will of course be aggrieved by not getting into the Europa, because they could urgently do with some cash to help pay for their much-delayed stadium, which is now open, and the recent bonus payments made to Mr Levy for getting the stadium finished (albeit somewhat late in the day).
In the Europa, Arsenal or Tottenham, if either get into the competition, might expect to get a starting fee (€140m) plus €570,000 per win and €190,000 per draw. So maybe €2.28m from the qualifying games.
Qualification per round then clicks in, so let’s say they reach the semi-finals, that would give them, an extra €5.6m. In total that would be around €7.9m. Certainly worth having with a stadium to pay for.
It is, of course, possible that Uefa could agree that Manchester City can play in the Champions League because the appeal has not been heard, but I don’t think there are any rules in procedures that allow for this to happen. The approach in the Uefa rulebook seems to me to be that the Uefa ruling is definitive unless and until it is overturned in an appeal court. Just as a man found guilty of possessing child pornography or of burglary with a firearm in England will get five years inside, and if he appeals, will still be held in prison pending the outcome of the appeal. In short, launching an appeal does not eliminate the punishment until the appeal is held and a ruling given. Justice delayed is commonplace.
I’d say, on the balance of probabilities, CAS will be persuaded to hold the appeal hearing in time, Manchester City will have their removal reduced to one year (which is what CAS always does – it often seems pointless going through the whole process!), the League will rule that points per game counts, Arsenal will get a Europa place, and the media will go utterly bonkers on Tottenham’s behalf.
I’m not sure Man City will get much support however, as their PR seems quite naff at times.
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