The timing of the unprecedented charges against the champions raised many an eyebrow – including at the Etihad – yet fast-forward to now and City have seemingly become the establishment, &aposescaping punishment&apos (or, more accurately, still awaiting verdict in a more complex case) while Everton are the ones publicly humiliated to send a message to the rest of the league and the corridors of government. The unexpected severity of the 10-point penalty has ramped up talk of the huge ramifications City could face if the most serious charges against them are proven.
However, to quote Pep Guardiola from his first press conference after the news back in February, “what happens if we are innocent?” The allegations against the Blues are so grave that they will need to be backed up to a high degree of proof, and the last governing body that believed they had City bang to rights got a rude awakening when the evidence was presented before an independent panel.
So while it is true that the most serious charges against City could (and should) result in expulsion from the league, nobody has seen any evidence to suggest it is likely to happen. Anyone who can tell you what the independent panel are going to decide is telling you a lie, because there are far too many unknowns.
Going back to that Guardiola press conference, he revealed that his bosses Ferran Soriano and Khaldoon Al Mubarak were “more confident” of being cleared of the charges on the basis of their &aposexperience and information&apos. That leaves the potential for City to have serious egg on their face, but it comes from people who have been vindicated in a similar matter where the stakes were also high.
If the strictest punishments can be hypothesised, so too can the softest. The reasoning behind the Everton verdict would indicate that City will do well to avoid charges of not co-operating for the investigation, which was the only charge that stuck from UEFA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport; the Blues were given a fine of 10 million euros, which was both hefty but also reduced from the 30 million they had initially been ordered to pay.
That may well be enough for some to claim that City are guilty (as they have done after CAS) but it would be harsh to punish a lack of co-operation with anything bigger than a fine – particularly if the most serious charges from a five-year investigation do not stick. As two leading academics on the subject wrote in a paper shared with the Manchester Evening News: “It would not be good enough for the Premier League to argue that Manchester City failed to co-operate with the Premier Leagues investigation.”