sport news The day England's most senior judges dismantled Man City's plea to hide Premier ...

sport news The day England's most senior judges dismantled Man City's plea to hide Premier ...
sport news The day England's most senior judges dismantled Man City's plea to hide Premier ...

The doors to Court 73 stand at the end of a short, sparsely furnished corridor. A wooden bench stretches down one wall, signs remind visitors to keep a social distance. Staff need not have worried.

It is mid-morning after the night before — English football is still nursing sore heads and hoarse voices after a 2-0 victory over Germany at Wembley.

This corridor is deserted, even as the country's leading club prepares to flex its muscles and clear its throat. Indeed, there is nothing to indicate the bitter fight bubbling behind those double doors. And that is exactly how the two sides want it to remain.

This corner of the Royal Courts of Justice lies beyond a layer of security and a warren of darkened passageways. Round blind corners, up flights of stairs, down more identi-corridors. Until you reach East Block. Even then, Court 73 remains shut. No access to the public or press, it warns. No fanfare either.

It is an unremarkable, rather eerie setting for a battle involving two of this country's sporting behemoths.

Manchester City have been investigated over whether they broke the Premier League's financial fair plays rules over the past two years

Manchester City have been investigated over whether they broke the Premier League's financial fair plays rules over the past two years

The Mail on Sunday had exclusive access to City's appeal into the public release of a judge's findings in the investigation into the club

The Mail on Sunday had exclusive access to City's appeal into the public release of a judge's findings in the investigation into the club

For years, only a few crumbs of detail emerged about the secret battle between Manchester City and the Premier League. Behind closed doors, the club are still being investigated for violating financial fair play rules more than two years after the league began their probe.

The investigation was launched in December 2018 on the back of 'Football Leaks' claims published by the German magazine, Der Spiegel, which alleged a swathe of irregularities by City. They included disguising direct investment by owner Sheik Mansour as sponsorship income.

The club always insisted that the material was taken 'out of context' and were 'purportedly hacked or stolen', adding that 'the attempt to damage the club's reputation is organised and clear'.

They nevertheless refused to hand over certain documents, prompting the Premier League to begin arbitration in an attempt to force their hand.

England's top-flight have been investigating Sheikh Mansour's City since a major leak in 2018

England's top-flight have been investigating Sheikh Mansour's City since a major leak in 2018

City have been fighting the courts over whether the public should know the judge's findings

City have been fighting the courts over whether the public should know the judge's findings

Since then, in the secrecy of Britain's High Court, City have been fighting that process, too. They disputed whether the arbitrators had jurisdiction to hear the Premier League's claim. They even suggested 'apparent bias', claiming they would be denied a fair hearing because the arbitrators lacked impartiality.

They lost but, by late June, the two sides shared common ground: both wanted to keep more information from prying eyes and ears. They had largely succeeded until March, when the judge who dismissed City's case ruled that the public ought to know her findings. Details of the arbitration dispute had hitherto remained hidden.

That is why City ended up here on the Strand, pleading with Britain's top legal brains to change tack.

HOW CITY FOUGHT TO DELAY THE LEAGUE'S INQUIRY AT EVERY TURN 

May 16, 2014: Manchester City are found guilty of breaching UEFA rules around Financial Fair Play (FFP). They are fined €60m (later reduced to €20m) and given short-term caps on squad size and spending.

November 5, 2018: 'Football Leaks' documents, published by German magazine Der Spiegel, allege that City have committed further FFP rules violations.

November 23, 2018: UEFA begin to examine the allegations in Der Spiegel. December 2018: The Premier League write to the club requesting certain information and documents in relation to potential breaches of their rules — known as the information claim. City object to the request.

March 7/8, 2019: UEFA and then the Premier League announce formal investigations into City's alleged FFP breaches.

August 21, 2019: PL issue a complaint against City, seeking disclosure of the documents and information. The club challenges the PL's disciplinary system, claiming the commission set up is not sufficiently independent or impartial.

October 22, 2019: With the documents and information not forthcoming, the PL begin arbitration against the club seeking a declaration that they are contractually obliged to provide them. The club try to stop the arbitration by arguing to the tribunal involved that the PL had no power to start it. They also claim that the tribunal does not appear impartial.

February 14, 2020: UEFA ban City from the Champions League for two seasons and fine them €30m for FFP violations.

June 2, 2020: The tribunal rejects the challenge to its jurisdiction and impartiality. 

June 26, 2020: City issue an application in the Commercial Court repeating their argument that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction on the information claim and is tainted with apparent bias.

July 13, 2020: The Champions League ban is overturned on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The UEFA fine is reduced to €10m for non-cooperation with the ruling body's investigation.

November 2, 2020: Meanwhile, the arbitration continues and the club's argument for not having to pass on the requested information and documents are rejected. The order to provide them is postponed pending the outcome of the Commercial Court case.

March 17, 2021: In the Commercial Court, Mrs Justice Moulder dismisses the club's challenge to the jurisdiction and impartiality of the tribunal. She refuses permission to appeal her judgment.

March 24, 2021: The judge says her judgment should be published, which would reveal the lengths to which City have attempted to resist passing on information to the PL. City successfully seek permission to appeal that decision in the Court of Appeal.

May 12, 2021: The Mail on Sunday writes to City and the Premier League asking to be shown details of the the Mrs Justice Moulder's judgment, including both sides' arguments, in the interests of open justice and to determine whether the newspaper should intervene on the club's appeal. The newspaper is prepared to guarantee nothing is published, but the requests are refused.

June 30, 2021: The Court of Appeal opens its hearing into the club's appeal against publication. The Mail on Sunday sends a barrister to court and is given last-minute permission to attend.

July 20, 2021: The Court of Appeal hands down its decision

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