By Tony Attwood
You may have noted a few of the sarcastic and critical comments posted on Untold following the Court of Arbitration in Sports findings in the Uefa v Manchester C appeal. I made the point a few times that the secretive nature of the CAS proceedings (something that does not happen in most courts in the UK, where the openness of proceedings is highly valued) means that we can never really know what went on, but we would have to wait for the official report. Although we did know from the start that Uefa lost on key issues not because their claims were false, but because they were submitted too late.
That, to me, was an appalling error by Uefa, and it is a shame we have not heard anything significant from Uefa on this, like perhaps an apology to every other club for cocking up in such a huge way.
But I rather suspect Uefa, like the rest of us, has been a trifle distracted by the battle between Fifa and the Swiss legal authorities, which has now led to the resignation of the most senior legal officer in Switzerland, after he had been found to be having secret meetings with Infantino (Fifa’s boss – at least for a little while longer). The British papers have largely ignored this, although I have now seen a piece in the Telegraph on this, so maybe the general public will start learning what is happening).
Likewise the British media has been fairly quiet on the issues raised by the CAS ruling, but the publication of the full CAS judgement is getting a few people interested, not least because the judgement rejects the notion that Manchester City provided the evidence to show they were innocent. Rather the CAS judgement says quite clearly Manchester City not only refused to provide evidence and witnesses but were overtly obstructive, and that there was a legitimate basis to prosecute the club. The prosecution failed because Uefa proceeded too slowly. Uefa argue that wasn’t their fault as the evidence that led to the prosecution arrived too late, but they didn’t seem to take this into account.
CAS do say that in 2012 and 2013 Etisalat did not pay £15m by way of sponsorship of Manchester City as Manchester City reported in its FFP documentation. The money, CAS clearly states, came from the Abu Dhabi United Group – which is an important point within the case.
Of course this doesn’t affect the fact that the club has got off – it has got off scot-free because Uefa were so slow. The breach happened in 2012 and 2013. True the evidence only turned up in 2018 when published in Der Spiegel, but the Uefa rules say, that having kept the deal quiet for five years Manchester City were safe.
The CAS report does show that the club refused to co-operate by providing emails and documents when requested to do so, and refused to allow their executive staff to appear as witnesses. As a result the finding that Mansour had subsidised the sponsorship deal was “not established” because the evidence that would establish that fact was too old. It was there, but couldn’t be submitted because of Uefa rules.
Which leads us to an interesting point. Khaldoon al-Mubarak of Manchester City told Gianni Infantino when he was running Fifa, that (as we have quoted before) he “would rather spend 30 million on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue [Uefa] for the next 10 years,” than co-operate with the case.
So, Uefa run by Infantino, screwed up a case it could have won, by being slow. Infantino who was part of the cock-up is now running Fifa, and as the rest of the world knows, but is not being reported much in England, Infantino is now in really, really big trouble having just lost his prime ally, the Swiss public prosecutor. (See Fifa in chaos as Infantino’s illegal meetings revealed and chief Swiss lawman resigns)
Manchester City in their statements also did not recognise the independence of CAS by making its now infamous statement “This is a case initiated by Uefa, prosecuted by Uefa and judged by Uefa,” although Ferran Soriano i Compte, the Chief Executive Officer of the club has backed down on that since.
So, now we know what CAS said in its private deliberations, what next? Manchester City are of course unhindered. Uefa are embarrassed. Fifa (only indirectly involved) are toppling over the edge of the cliff.
Uefa has already in the past 18 months admitted it can’t cope with the workload it is facing in relation to match fixing and is bringing in outside organisations to help (yet another story that the English media failed to report), and that step forwards is seen in Europe as a very positive move, both in admitting the level of match fixing, and seeking a way to deal with it.
Now Uefa has been shown to be too slow, allowing a major case to be thrown out on appeal because it was not presented in a timely manner in keeping with its own rules. (And we must remember these were Uefa rules, not CAS rules).
Uefa can’t stop CAS meeting in secrecy, but it can change its own rules, to ensure that in future no club is able to delay and delay by making aggressive “no surrender” type statements, and so kick the legal case over the time-bar line. That should be easy. Every country represented in Uefa would agree
Second, Uefa is changing its internal workings so that it speeds matters like this up. Its explanation (that the Der Spiegel emails came out so late that it didn’t have time to get the case out sooner) might be valid, but this can be avoided again, simply by expanding the time it has, or abandoning the time limit totally. I doubt that a single club participating in Uefa tournaments would vote against such a change, other, perhaps, than Manchester City.
Third, Uefa is watching the situation unfolding in Switzerland as the legal authorities daily tighten the screw on Infantino, not least because if Infantino is guilty of a fraction of what is being talked about in these investigations, then everything Infantino did while head of Uefa could also unravel. Certainly it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the resignation of Michael Lauber, the most senior law officer in the country, after having been found to have had secret meetings with Infantino. That is shaking the country, and football. Only the UK ignores it because, well, it’s not British.
Everything is being tightened up, and I suspect in time the cock-up by Uefa in not pushing its case through faster, relying instead on the fact that the evidence only came to light late in the day, will not be allowed to happen again.
But now, let’s continue to watch the Swiss story, because as Bob Dylan said, “Things could start to get interesting right about now.”
- The shocking statistics on how referees have affected Arsenal’s league position
- Fifa in chaos as Infantino’s illegal meetings revealed and chief Swiss lawman resigns
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP