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IAN HERBERT: Man City has escaped a European ban, but this is not a moral victory

It seems to say everything about how the wild economy of football that a club can be fined for the best part of £ 9 million – one of the biggest punishments ever dealt – and still consider it a win.

The essential, detailed judgment of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is just a few days away. But Monday’s 377 word summary reveals enough to show that this is a technical win for Manchester City – not a moral one.

CAS has repealed City’s two-season ban on European competition, either because the alleged offenses have been committed too far in the past under UEFA’s Statute of Limitation – which imposes a five-year term – or because City’s refusal to participating in the investigation is simply done it is impossible to get to the bottom of them.

Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff (left to right: Manel Estiarte, Txiki Begiristain, Pep Guardiola, Omar Berrada, Ferran Soriano) had reason to smile Monday when Manchester City's two-year Champions League ban was lifted at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff (left to right: Manel Estiarte, Txiki Begiristain, Pep Guardiola, Omar Berrada, Ferran Soriano) had reason to smile Monday when Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban was lifted at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

Monday's news means City is now free to participate in next season's Champions League

Monday's news means City is now free to participate in next season's Champions League

Monday’s news means City is now free to participate in next season’s Champions League

The news on Monday morning is welcomed by members of the city council and the chairman of the club and co-founder of the City Football Group, Khaldoon Al Mubarek

The news on Monday morning is welcomed by members of the city council and the chairman of the club and co-founder of the City Football Group, Khaldoon Al Mubarek

The news on Monday morning is welcomed by members of the city council and the chairman of the club and co-founder of the City Football Group, Khaldoon Al Mubarek

The club was glowing when UEFA discovered they had breached financial fair play by deliberately increasing the value of sponsorship deals. They claimed to be victims of the football cartel. Innocents against a monumental split-up. No reason not to fully cooperate with researchers to establish the true facts?

They have deliberately stopped them. CAS emphasizes the importance of cooperation because of the ‘limited research resources’ of the UEFA examination board. But City’s “ignoring such principles and obstructing investigations” has resulted in the fine – the largest UEFA has been distributed since it was last found City guilty of violating FFP six years ago.

Justification? Evasion, more like. The optics, as they like to say in the PR world, are absolutely awful.

The significant little details behind these kinds of stories are often crushed in the rush these days for the next 280-character sound bite or rating. But some of those who worked for City when their corporate structure became increasingly maze-like around 2012 as they struggled to comply with financial fair play rules – more than five years ago – are puzzled by this CAS ruling.

They were always skeptical of a mysterious company called Fordham Sports Image Rights, to which the club had sold their image rights revenue stream to earn a lump sum of £ 24.5 million needed at the time to pass FFP. Despite the money being dumped on the balance sheet, the club still handled and earned image rights itself.

Pep Guardiola had insisted that he did not lose any sleep due to the outcome of City's appeal to CAS

Pep Guardiola had insisted that he did not lose any sleep due to the outcome of City's appeal to CAS

Pep Guardiola had insisted that he did not lose any sleep due to the outcome of City’s appeal to CAS

The ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport dispels doubts about the future of key figures

The ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport dispels doubts about the future of key figures

The ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport dispels doubts about the future of key figures

In addition to lifting their Champions League ban, City got their FFP infringement fine reduced from € 30 million to € 10 million - representing £ 9 million

In addition to lifting their Champions League ban, City got their FFP infringement fine reduced from € 30 million to € 10 million - representing £ 9 million

In addition to lifting their Champions League ban, City got their FFP infringement fine reduced from € 30 million to € 10 million – representing £ 9 million

Other members of the club’s staff were unable to explain why their wages were suddenly paid by the ‘City Football Group’, which was set up to provide services to other companies and clubs in the City stable, thereby lowering the club’s overall payroll. Those employees couldn’t see how they worked for anyone other than Manchester City.

The moral of the story for anyone who wants to avoid the embarrassment City has experienced is ‘don’t send emails’ because it was a leaked cache leaked to Der Spiegel, suggesting the club was shamefully trying to blow up commercial contracts and earn money image rights.

There was Simon Pearce, one of Abu Dhabi’s closest advisers, who stated ‘we can do what we want’. There was City Football Group attorney Simon Cliff who insisted that the entire image rights and commercial deal operation be called “Project Longbow” as a tribute “to the weapon the English used to defeat the French at Crecy and Agincourt.”

However, it was a non-enlightening saga for City - City Football Group attorney Simon Cliff even joked about the death of Jean-Luc Dehaene (left)

However, it was a non-enlightening saga for City - City Football Group attorney Simon Cliff even joked about the death of Jean-Luc Dehaene (left)

However, it was a non-enlightening saga for City – City Football Group attorney Simon Cliff even joked about the death of Jean-Luc Dehaene (left)

City may have escaped the ultimate penalty in a two-year Champions League ban, but the entire episode has shown how no one involved can be considered the winner

City may have escaped the ultimate penalty in a two-year Champions League ban, but the entire episode has shown how no one involved can be considered the winner

City may have escaped the ultimate penalty in a two-year Champions League ban, but the entire episode has shown how no one involved can be considered the winner

Cliff joked about the death of Jean-Luc Dehaene, twice Prime Minister of Belgium, who was one of seven financial fair play UEFA overseers. “Only 1, 6 more to go,” Cliff joked. That always seemed to be the dirtiest email of all. There has never been a public apology for the deceased’s family.

There will now be cheers of the conviction of much of a city and more abuse for those who have had the courage to suggest that if you enter a club tournament you are playing by the rules – no matter how rotten a system may be.

But there is no winner. Once upon a time, there was something sublime about City, a club under enlightened management that found new ways to reach fans, enhance the match experience, break the grip of agents and break into the football elite. That’s all gone. This is an empty and Pyrrhic victory.

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