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Man City files appeal against UEFA ban

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GENEVA — Manchester City has filed an expected appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a two-year ban from European soccer competition.

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The club met its late-Monday deadline to challenge UEFA, CAS said Wednesday.

“It is not possible to indicate at this time when a final award in this matter will be issued,” the court said in a statement.

It is unclear if City will seek UEFA’s consent for a public hearing. They could also try to reach an out-of-court settlement to resolve the dispute, which CAS would likely then ratify.

UEFA found City guilty of “serious breaches” of financial monitoring rules and failing to cooperate with an investigation opened almost one year ago.

The club is currently excluded from playing in the Champions League, Europa League or Super Cup in the next two seasons. UEFA also fined City $32.5 million. The punishment does not affect City’s current Champions League campaign.

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The CAS document was published hours beforeCity plays at Real Madrid in the first leg of the round of 16.

Leaked internal club documents published in German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018 showed City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hiding the source of revenue tied to its owners in Abu Dhabi.

One internal email said City officials preferred to spend tens of millions on “the 50 best lawyers in the world” to sue UEFA rather than accept punishment.

City never disputed the authenticity of documents, which it said were illegally obtained.

City CEO Ferran Soriano hopes to resolve the case by the end of the season. CAS verdicts typically take about a year to reach unless both parties agree to a fast-track process.

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Previous appeals to CAS involving clubs who broke UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules were dealt with after a few months in June or July to avoid harming the next season’s competitions. Clubs have typically been banned for one European season for breaking finance rules, but that is without bad faith and deception as part of the case.

The latest Man City battle against UEFA follows a CAS ruling in November, which dismissed the club’s attempt to end the investigation on procedural grounds.

Long overshadowed by neighboring Manchester United, a three-time European champion, City has risen into the European elite backed by sovereign wealth from Abu Dhabi.

City has won four Premier League titles since being bought in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family.

However, the investment has conflicted with UEFA’s financial monitoring rules, launched in 2011, to help keep clubs stable by controlling spending on wages and transfer fees. Clubs are required to break even on their soccer income and spending and not rely on bailouts or disguised investments from owners.

City paid UEFA $21.7 million from its Champions League prize money as part of a settlement in 2014 to avoid a possible competition ban.

CONCACAF postpones Nations League finals, Gold Cup qualification

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CONCACAF announced on Friday that the 2019-20 Nations League finals and the opening rounds of 2021 Gold Cup qualification have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The Nations League finals — featuring the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras — were previously scheduled to take place in Houston and Dallas in early June. CONCACAF says the semifinals and final will be rescheduled for a later date.

The seconds round of Gold Cup qualifying was previously scheduled to be made up in June — following their postponement in March, with four two-leg ties featuring largely Caribbean and Central American nations. Those, too, will be rescheduled for a later date.

Given the ongoing public health situation, and following consultation with FIFA regarding the international football calendar, we have made the decision to suspend the CONCACAF Nations League finals, which was scheduled for June 4-7, 2020 in the Houston and Dallas areas.

The event, which includes the Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA men’s national teams, will be rescheduled to take place at a later date in venues to be determined. This will be confirmed following further discussions with FIFA regarding the remaining international windows in the football calendar, and will obviously be subject to public health authorities deeming it safe for professional sports events to resume.

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA — FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

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Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time

Premier League rivalries: The Merseyside derby

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While the Merseyside derby has been dominated by one side of late, that has not detracted from the spectacle of the most historic matchup in English top flight history.

Uninterrupted in top flight play since 1962/63, the two sides are situated less than a mile apart, with the proximity feeding an already intense matchup.

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Despite the incredibly close geographic proximity, the derby is sometimes known as the “Friendly Derby” as there are often families with split allegiances. Still, the matchup has the most red cards in Premier League history with 21, including 17 of those in the especially heated timeframe between 1997 and 2008.

Unfortunately for Everton, the rivalry has become one-sided over the past decade, with the Toffees failing to win since October of 2010. Liverpool has won 11 of the 21 games, with the other 10 ending in a draw. That has somewhat deescalated the vicious nature of the matchup, especially since Liverpool has gone on to become one of the most formidable sides in Europe over the past few years while Everton continues to challenge for a top-half place in the league.

Still, the 228 all-time matches between the clubs continues to fuel one of the great matchups in the English domestic landscape, and sooner or later this rivalry will regain its venom to bring the bite back to this matchup.