NYON, Switzerland (AP) — Premier League winner Manchester City and French champion Paris Saint-Germain were fined $82 million by UEFA on Friday and ordered to limit their Champions League squads to 21 players next season for breaching the body’s financial fair play rules.
In the first series of sanctions handed down by UEFA over its new regulations meant to curb over-spending by wealthy owners, nine clubs in all were handed punishments — but those given to City and PSG were by far the heaviest.
City said it will accept the sanctions and will not appeal, but insisted that the club has a “fundamental disagreement” with UEFA about its “interpretations of the FFP regulations on players purchased before 2010.”
PSG also accepted the punishment “in spite of the tremendous handicap they represent in terms of the club’s ability to fully compete on an equal footing against Europe’s biggest teams.”
PSG also said in a statement that it “deplores the fact” that UEFA hasn’t recognized “the full value” of its partnership with the Qatar Tourism Authority, which the governing body said was inflated.
The fines given to City and PSG are the heaviest ever handed by out UEFA. However, UEFA said $54.8 million will be returned to the clubs if they fulfil their financial obligations over the next two years.
Those obligations include limiting the deficits to $13.7 million in the financial year ending in 2015 for City, with PSG allowed a deficit of $41.1 million for that period before being obligated to break even by 2016.
City said it expects to break even by the end of 2014.
UEFA said both clubs have agreed to “significantly limit” their spending in the transfer market over the next two years. However, City said it is allowed to spend $82.2 million, plus whatever it earns for selling players, in this summer’s transfer window. It said the UEFA sanction “will have no material impact on the club’s planned transfer activity.”
The reduced Champions League squads may not have much of an impact either. Teams are ordinarily allowed 25-man squads for the competition, but few end up using that many. City and PSG both used 21 players on the field this past season — not counting unused substitutes.
The FFP rules require clubs who play in the Champions League and Europa League to balance their finances, and are meant to curb huge investments by owners and excessive spending on transfers.
The sanctions were handed down five years after UEFA President Michel Platini launched the program to tackle “cheating” by overspending. No club was expelled from next season’s Champions League or Europa League, which had been billed as the harshest punishment available.
The other clubs to have failed FFP were Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Bursaspor from Turkey, Russian sides Zenit St Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala and Rubin Kazan, as well as Levski Sofia from Bulgaria.
Those were handed fines ranging from $273,920 — for Galatasaray, Trabzonspor, Levski and Bursaspor — to $16.4 million for Zenit.
UEFA was expected to rule against Man City and PSG, which far exceeded a limit of $61.6 million losses over the first two seasons of very complex accounting rules for FFP assessment. Both clubs tried to balance their finances with inflated sponsorship deals linked to their owners in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, respectively.
City was also scrutinized for booking tens of millions in revenue from selling image rights and consultancy fees to third parties.
Critics of FFP say it was effectively manipulated during UEFA’s lengthy consultation with clubs who saw an opportunity to lock out emerging rivals whose new, wealthy owners wanted to spend quickly to join the elite.
Clubs such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid, which have lucrative commercial deals worldwide, will all likely benefit from City and PSG now having to rein in their transfer strategy.