Manchester City have been accused of cheating after claims that their owner paid large parts of inflated sponsorship deals himself.
According to a report by German newspaper Der Spiegel, based allegedly on more hacked documents from the Football Leaks whistle-blowers, City owner Sheik Mansour paid significant parts of so-called deals with club sponsors in a bid to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
In one agreement with Etihad Airways, it is claimed a staggering £59.5million of the £67.5m was essentially financed by Mansour. The revelations could lead to sanctions from UEFA and the Premier League.
According to Daily Mail, neither would comment on Monday night and there is concern about the method by which the documents were obtained.
If they conclude that the emails have been obtained illegally, City — who were sanctioned in 2014 for a breach of FFP rules — could face no further action.
City reiterated on Monday night that they ‘will not be providing any comment on out of context materials purportedly hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Man City personnel and associated people’.
Yet with yet more revelations due to be published as this week progresses, UEFA and the Premier League are understood to be monitoring the situation, with insiders suggesting sanctions could yet follow.
While UEFA could impose a punishment as severe as a ban from the Champions League, a transfer ban would appear a more likely outcome if European football’s governing body choose to act.
The Premier League would probably follow UEFA by at least examining if the English champions are in breach of their sponsorship rules that demand agreements are set at a ‘fair market value’.
‘At the very least this is embarrassing for City,’ said a senior source on Monday night. ‘Questions certainly need to be asked.’
Doubts over the authenticity of the deals with companies based in the Sheik’s Abu Dhabi homeland have long been raised, and the emails Der Spiegel claim to have in their possession certainly seem to echo those concerns.
One of the emails from 2010, reportedly from board member Simon Pearce communicating with bosses, allegedly discusses a £15m deal with partner Aabar.
‘As we discussed, the annual direct obligation for Aabar is £3m,’ he allegedly wrote. ‘The remaining £12m will come from alternative sources provided by His Highness.’
Der Spiegel say that sentence confirms accusations that Mansour personally paid a portion of the sponsorship money.