Why the Premier League ‘has shot itself in the foot’ over Man City’s 115 charges


Manchester City could win a fourth title in a row on Sunday, but that only tells some of the story around the club’s era of domination.

As long as the 115 charges relating to financial fair play breaches over nearly a decade remain unresolved, the debate around the club’s place in football history will continue to rage. For some it is not mentioned enough and should be the caveat to any on-field success. For others – mainly those in the club’s fanbase – the presumption of guilt irks.

What feels beyond conjecture is that this an unprecedented case with the potential to bring seismic change in the English game.

So, what is actually going on with the charges?

Can all sides agree on one thing at least? The opaque nature of the Premier League’s financial fair play mechanisms is helping no-one here, creating uncertainty that runs the risk of eroding trust in the integrity of the competition.

The most we’ve heard since that bombshell morning in February 2023 when the charges were announced is a couple of Select Committee appearances from Premier League CEO Richard Masters at which he’s spoken of a resolution in the “near future”.

Masters has at least confirmed a date has been set for the hearing, although he wouldn’t actually say when it was.

Of course there are complex legal arguments being played out in the background. But – as we saw with the charges related to profit and sustainability regulations (PSR) against Everton and Nottingham Forest this season – the desire to do everything in secret jars horribly with the huge interest in the case from supporters.

“If the charges are proven, it couldn’t be any more serious,” Stefan Borson, a corporate lawyer and former financial adviser to Manchester City, tells i.

He believes that if the club are found guilty, relegation from the Premier League is an inevitability, and will be just the start of their punishment.

“That seems even more obvious after the way sporting advantage was appraised and dealt with in the relatively simple [Everton and Nottingham Forest] PSR cases,” he says.

Perhaps the issue here – and it is inevitable, given the nature of football fandom – is the presumption from many fans that guilt will be proven when information around the case remains scant.

“It feels as though there’s nothing left to say until the case is heard,” Borson, a City supporter himself, says.

“I understand people want it to be quicker but it’s not possible and people are going over the same thing time and time again.

“I don’t know what the solution is in fairness. If you’re not familiar with litigation of this sort, why would you know how complicated it is or how long this would take?”

And that is the point here: when Jamie Carragher, rival supporters or even Pep Guardiola himself lobbies for a swift resolution, it ignores the unprecedented nature of the charges and the complexity of the legal arguments at play.

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