Manchester City Sues Premier League Over “Discrimination” Claims

Manchester City's Erling Haaland, Manuel Akanji, and Ruben Dias, from right, celebrate their third goal during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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Manchester City has launched legal action against the Premier League, alleging “discrimination,” a move that could have significant repercussions for the English top flight, The Times reported on Tuesday.

The newly crowned champions aim to challenge the league’s associated party transaction (APT) rules, which they claim are unlawful, and seek damages.

In February, the Premier League tightened APT rules, which pertain to clubs signing sponsorship deals with companies linked to their owners.

The Times reported that the dispute between Manchester City and the Premier League will be resolved after a two-week arbitration hearing starting next Monday.

Abu Dhabi-owned City secured their fourth consecutive Premier League title last month, underscoring their dominance in English football over the past decade.

City’s rapid rise has been bolstered by sponsorship deals with related parties in the Gulf. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is both City’s stadium and shirt sponsor.

In a separate case, City, managed by Pep Guardiola, faces 115 Premier League charges for alleged breaches of regulations and financial rules between 2009 and 2023, which they strongly deny. This hearing is reportedly set for November.

The APT rules aim to maintain competitiveness in the Premier League, requiring clubs to prove that their commercial deals represent fair market value. The Times reported that City, in a 165-page legal document, argue they are victims of “discrimination” and refer to a “tyranny of the majority” intended to stifle their on-pitch success.

Premier League rule changes and major broadcast and commercial proposals require approval from at least two-thirds of the 20 clubs.

If City wins their legal battle, it could allow the wealthiest clubs to value their sponsorship deals without independent assessment, potentially widening the financial disparity within the league.

The Times reported that between 10 and 12 clubs have provided witness statements or letters supporting the Premier League’s defense against City’s claim. City is suing the Premier League for damages, citing losses incurred due to the existing rules.

City argues that the rules were imposed at the instigation of rival clubs reacting to the Saudi takeover of Newcastle in 2021, aiming to “safeguard their own commercial advantages.” The club also accuses rivals of “discrimination against Gulf ownership,” citing comments from a senior club executive, according to The Times.