Manchester City charges: Premier League says date has been set for hearing

Manchester City celebrate winning the Premier League
Manchester City were taken over by owners from Abu Dhabi in 2008

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says a date has been set for the hearing into Manchester City’s alleged breaches of financial rules.

But, speaking in front of MPs, Masters said he could not reveal the date.

Everton, already appealing against a 10-point deduction for a previous charge, and Nottingham Forest were charged for breaching league profit and sustainability rules on Monday.

Masters said he understood why both clubs’ fans might be frustrated.

“I can [understand] but they are very different charge” he told the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) committee.

“If any club, the current champions or otherwise, had been found in breach of the spending rules, they would be in exactly the same position as Everton or Nottingham Forest.

“But the volume and character of the charges laid before Manchester City, which I obviously cannot talk about at all, are being heard in a completely different environment.

“There is a date set for that proceeding. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you when that is but it is progressing.”

Premier League champions City were charged with more than 100 breaches in February 2023 but are yet to face a hearing.

Everton were handed a 10-point deduction in November, having been referred to an independent commission in March.

City’s charges related to a nine-year time frame from 2009. Since 2009, they have won the top flight seven times, but are facing potential relegation and having titles taken away if the case against them is proven.

They were also charged with failing to co-operate since the Premier League launched its investigation in 2018.

There have been reports the case will be heard at the end of this year, although this has not been confirmed by the Premier League and it seems unlikely there will be a verdict until 2025.

‘We have a duty to the other 19 clubs’

Everton and Nottingham Forest’s referral to an Independent Commission is for alleged breaches during the three-year period ending 2022-23.

These cases must be heard by 8 April.

Before that, there will be a hearing for Everton’s appeal against the first alleged breach which relates to the previous year.

Masters was asked if this was merely an attempt by the Premier League to prove it can operate without a football regulator, something that the government plans to appoint.

“No. We take our rule book very seriously,” he responded.

“It is a handshake between all 20 clubs. Clubs look each other in the eye and say we will comply with these rules. They expect the board, if clubs don’t comply with those rules, to take action.

“Everton are a very important member of the Premier League, an ever present. But we also have to think about the other 19 clubs and their fanbases in the decisions that we make.

“The charges we made in March 2023, for the first Everton case, were eventually heard in October. We did make a plea at the time to hear the first case before the end of the season but Everton argued against that and the commission agreed with them.

“Nobody likes enforcing these financial rules. They were brought in in 2013-14 with the specific purpose of ensuring that unsustainable spending couldn’t go too far and a wrapper was put around how much clubs could invest in pursuit of their aims. It is the first time we have laid a charge in this way.”

MP fears Reading owner is trying to ‘fold’ club

Football League chair Rick Parry sat alongside Masters in front of the panel.

One MP, Damian Green, is a Reading fan and was at Saturday’s game against Port Vale which was abandoned after fans invaded the pitch to protest against owner Dai Yongge.

Green outlined the doomsday scenario many supporters are scared of becoming reality.

“The word on the street is that he now doesn’t want to sell and is just asset stripping and is doing it quite visibly with players,” Green said.

“He is willing to sell any player of any value for what little he can get and wants to be left with the training ground as a piece of property having folded the club.

“He was approved to be an owner and is someone who in two different countries has killed off two football clubs already. It seems to me pretty extraordinary that he was ever allowed into the English game in those circumstances.”

Parry said the EFL would be meeting Reading fans on Tuesday but outlined the complexity of the situation.

“We share the fans’ concerns absolutely,” he said.

“We are trying to take action against Dai Yongge. Just before Christmas, we took action against the owner in an attempt to get the owner disqualified.

“It failed on that occasion. They fined him instead which, frankly, is no use at all. If he won’t put money into the club he won’t pay the fines.

“Reading sold the stadium and training ground. It is absurd that was allowed to happen. Fortunately, that loophole has been closed.

“What normally happens in this situation is that clubs go into administration. At least then there is a process. It happened with Derby and Wigan.

“It is pretty extraordinary for an owner to effectively sit there and do nothing. That is a new one. We haven’t seen that before. It is a fresh challenge and we don’t have an instant solution.”

FA Cup replays and two-legged EFL Cup semis won’t just be scrapped.

Parry said issues around the domestic calendar needed addressing as a matter or urgency.

BBC Sport has previously reported FA Cup replays from round three onwards and two-legged EFL Cup semi-finals will be ditched to create space for more European matches.

However, Parry said that with no deal yet on an increased funding package with the Premier League, who want to impose regulation around what Championship clubs can spend and are yet to agree where the proposed funding of around £900m will come from, the changes won’t happen.

“As part of the total system, part of a new deal, we are prepared to take on board considerably less revenue to our clubs from the loss of FA Cup replays and from the second leg of the Carabao [Cup].

“We are absolutely not prepared to concede those on the basis that there is no deal. The 14 clubs who are the non-permanent members of the Premier League have been in there for an average of 13 years each.

“The 14 clubs in the EFL who had the longest tenure in the Premier League also had an average of 13 years in the Premier League. This season those 14 clubs in the Premier League will receive £1.8bn between them, the 14 in EFL will receive less than £90m, that is less than five percent.

“That is the chasm we are trying to bridge.”

No Saturday 3pm slot for WSL

As part of the calendar solutions, it has been suggested Women’s Super League games could be televised at 15:00 GMT on a Saturday, which remains a blackout period.

This, it is argued, will create space for the women’s game to showcase itself.

Masters said the change was unlikely to be practical because of the legalities around Uefa’s ‘Article 48’, which allows the blackout to be in force.

“You can’t divide Article 48 for different bits of the game,” he said. “If Article 48 didn’t exist, everything could be televised. It is very difficult to find a slot where no men’s football exists. The answer is not obvious.”

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