Reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City have been handed a two-season ban from the UEFA Champions League.
According to a statement by UEFA, the ban comes after the club was found to have committed "serious breaches" of Uefa's club licensing and financial fair play regulations.
Apart from being barred from taking part in any European club competition for the next two seasons, the club has also been fined €30 million (S$45.22 million).
The ruling means that one of the most expensively assembled squads in the world will not be able to take part in Europe's top football competition for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, pending an appeal.
In a statement published on their website, Manchester City said that they were "disappointed but not surprised".
UEFA — the governing body of football in Europe — said that it noted the decision of the independent Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) which found Manchester City to have "overstated its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016":
"The Adjudicatory Chamber has also found that in breach of the regulations the Club failed to cooperate in the investigation of this case by the CFCB."
What is financial fair play?
According to the BBC, UEFA's financial fair play rules require clubs to balance football-related expenditure, like player transfers and wages, with television and ticket income, plus revenues raised by their commercial departments.
The rules were introduced as a measure to prevent clubs from spending beyond their means and put an end to what a former UEFA president Michel Platini called "financial doping".
Fighting the investigation and then ruling
The club, which is owned by the state-backed Abu Dhabi United Group, have signalled their intention to appeal CFCB's verdict with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) "at the earliest opportunity".
In their statement, Manchester City also bemoaned the "flawed and consistently leaked UEFA process".
"Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA. With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible," the club wrote.
The club had previously attempted to block the investigation by appealing to the CAS before the CFCB had issued a ruling, reported the New York Times.
However, their appeal was deemed "inadmissible" because UEFA's process had yet to be complete.
Leaked emails and documents
The Guardian reports that UEFA's investigation into the English champions was sparked by the publication of leaked documents and emails by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018.
The emails and documents appeared to show that the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, had mostly been funding Manchester City with his own company while telling UEFA that the funds had instead come from a sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines.
Manchester City has consistently denied all wrongdoing of any kind.
Possible Premier League points deduction
According to The Independent, the club's woes may extend to its domestic campaign, with a possible Premier League points deduction to be handed out.
This is because information handed to UEFA pertaining to financial fair play regulations would also have to be handed to the Premier League for its own licencing processes.
As UEFA had deemed that information to be false, Manchester City could face an additional potential punishment from the Premier League — believed to most likely be a points deduction.
Yet, with the reigning champions currently 22-points behind league leaders Liverpool, any such punishment is unlikely to have an impact on this year's Premier League outcome.
Top image from Manchester City's Facebook page