Manchester City’s legal case has power to blow Premier League’s house down


Paul MacInnes

This week, at an unspecified location in central London, the latest stage in the Premier League’s civil war will begin to unfold. Expected to last two weeks, the arbitration case brought by Manchester City against the competition of which they are champions will be dry, its verdict technical. The consequences, however, will probably be anything but.

City, who are owned by Sheikh Mansour, the vice president and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, will argue in front of a panel of three independent lawyers that the Premier League is breaking the law of the United Kingdom.

The infraction in question relates to rules around Associated Party Transactions, or APTs, and the need for clubs to make sure any deals they do with businesses who have “Material Influence over the Club or an entity in the same group of companies as the Club” are struck at fair market value. City argue this goes against competition law. That’s the dry bit.

The case will be heard in private and there will be no public acknowledgement of any outcome, nor the reasons behind it. Thanks to reporting in the Times, we do know something about the contents of City’s legal submission, however, and by all accounts it appears quite extraordinary. The action being brought against the Premier League board under the obscure Rule x.5.4 could almost be seen as a Trojan horse for a challenge to the entire existing structure of the competition.

According to reports, City are not only challenging the APT rules but seeking damages for deals that were affected or lost as a consequence. Those damages would have to be paid by the League, whose shareholders are its 20 member clubs.

City also allege that the rules were designed to stymie owners from Gulf states and members of multi-club ownership groups – something which applies to City in both instances – and were only established due to the desire of rivals to “safeguard their own commercial advantages”.

In fact, City argue that the Premier League itself has a vested interest in limiting APTs as it is a rival for sponsorship income and if the rules are not changed the newly crowned champions could be forced to limit spending on community projects and the women’s team.


Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *