Potential ban will spark fight for 5th spot

LONDON • The English Premier League could have an unusually intense battle for fifth place next season if Manchester City are banned from European football for breaking Financial Fair Play rules.

Uefa sources have confirmed that England would retain four Champions League places if City are excluded from the competition in 2020-21, which was the recommendation of the investigatory chamber of Uefa's club financial control body (CFCB) when the Premier League champions were formally charged last week.

Given that Pep Guardiola's side, who sealed a domestic treble with victory in the FA Cup final, are almost certain to finish in the top four next season, their Champions League place would pass to the team who are fifth in the Premier League, should they be suspended.

The allocation of Champions League spots is in the hands of the Football Association, but there is no prospect of a place being given to the FA or League Cup winners.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have qualified for the Champions League despite finishing below fourth in the Premier League in recent years as a result of winning European competitions, but no English team have qualified by finishing fifth.

The FA Cup winners are theoretically rewarded with a place in the Europa League. However, after City's emphatic 6-0 win over Watford at Wembley last Saturday, the extra spot for next season has gone to Wolves, who finished seventh in their first season in the Premier League since 2012.

City has strongly denied the charge of falsely declaring a £59.5 million (S$104.2 million) payment from its holding company as a sponsorship deal from Etihad Airways to circumvent financial fair play regulations in 2015. Their fate is to be decided by the adjudicatory chamber of the CFCB.

The club will be granted a personal hearing by Uefa at its headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, presided over by the CFCB chairman Jose Narciso da Cunha Rodrigues, who was formerly a judge at the European Court of Justice.

A date has yet to be set for the hearing. However, it is not thought to be imminent and, with City planning to appeal if necessary, there is no chance that there will be a Champions League ban in place by the beginning of next season.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2019, with the headline 'Potential ban will spark fight for 5th spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe