Man City v Premier League: Historic legal battle explained and impact on 115 charges

Manchester City's legal challenges against the Premier League have been explained.Manchester City's legal challenges against the Premier League have been explained.
Manchester City's legal challenges against the Premier League have been explained. | Getty Images
We’ve broken down exactly why Manchester City are bringing legal action against the Premier League and their alleged grievances.

Manchester City are set to bring an unprecedented legal case against the Premier League, according to the Times, in a landmark hearing that is said to have ‘sparked civil war in English football’s top flight’.

The case mainly centres around the Associated Party Transaction (APT) rules and could have huge ramifications for City’s 115 Premier League charges, a case that will be heard in November and could last for up to six weeks, the article states.

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A 165-page legal document has been drawn up by City’s lawyers, while the Times’ detailed article contains a lot of complicated technical jargon . Below, we’ve summarised the main points from this bombshell report.

What are ATP rules?

Let’s start with the basics. ATP rules were first introduced in 2021 to prevent clubs agreeing commercial deals with any associated party where the price could be inflated. This in turn could help in regards to Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR).

All deals worth over £1m must be checked by the Premier League, who conduct a ‘fair market value assessment’. The rules were first brought in following Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabian-backed takeover and were strengthened again in February.

What are City’s objections?

The Times report that City object to the ATP rules as they ‘stifle commercial freedoms’ and ‘restrict economic competition’. 

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The league champions are also said to protest against the fair market value rules, which they claim have cost the club ‘tens of millions’. “City argue that sponsors linked to club owners — City’s are in Abu Dhabi — should be allowed to determine how much they want to pay, regardless of independent valuation,” the article explains.

There has also been an allegation of discrimination towards clubs with ties to the Gulf region, while the league’s other sides have sought to protect their own self-interests since Newcastle’s 2021 takeover, claim City.

When will this case be heard?

A ‘two-week private arbitration hearing’ will determine the matter, claim the Times. The other 19 Premier League clubs have been invited to submit evidence to the proceedings, an option 10-12 are believed to have taken. The Times add ‘at least one club that has submitted a witness statement in support of City’.

How could this impact the 115 charges case?

A number of the 115 charges brought against City relate to their valuation of sponsorship deals. But if the current ATP rules are deemed to be unlawful, then it would mean clubs are able to set their own value on commercial deals, and significantly strengthen City’s defence in this matter.

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City strenuously deny all the allegations made against them and claim to have an ‘irrefutable body of evidence’.

Any other points?

City are also suing the Premier League for damages caused from what they feel are inaccurate assessments determined by the fair market value rules, while questioning the validity of Nielsen Sports, the data analytics company used to determine the value of club’s commercial deals.

The Times add: “City want a split trial ‘with the first part focused on the APT rules followed by a second to then determine damages.”

City are also claiming that the Premier League’s voting criteria for any major decisions - which requires a two-third majority for the 20 clubs - is not fit for purpose and has resulted in a ‘tyranny’ that punishes the minority.

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An additional claim has been made that City are being ‘prevented from monetising their brand in the way United did’ during their era of dominance, while they allege the Premier League have failed to provide proof that sponsorship deals among related parties could distort the division’s competitive balance.

The Times also report that the Premier League’s spending on legal fees has quadrupled in the last year from around £5m to £20m, while the shifting of focus away from the 115 charges is seen as a ‘clear tactic’ from City’s legal team.

ManchesterWorld have contacted Manchester City for comment.

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