UEFA

Getty Images

Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final

Leave a comment

Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be available to play in the UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.

The final on May 29 is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and that country has no diplomatic relations with the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth, Armenia. Hence, Arsenal cannot guarantee the safety of their playmaker who is also the captain of the Armenian national team.

Despite the ambassador assuring Mkhitaryan will be safe, the Gunners have decided he will not be able to travel with the squad over those safety concerns.

“We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea,” the north London club said in a statement.

Due their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, tensions are high between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Mkhitaryan did not travel for Arsenal’s Europa League game against Qarabag in Azerbaijan earlier this season.

He will now not be available for the final despite being a key part of Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final, which they must win to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. UEFA had previously said they would help with the situation, but this is the latest problem in holding the final in Baku as only 5,000 fans of both Chelsea and Arsenal are expected in the 67,000 capacity stadium due to their being no direct flights and other issues getting to Azerbaijan.

Arsenal released the following statement on the situation regarding Mkhitaryan.

We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party. We have written to Uefa expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.

We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career. Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend.

Mkhitaryan responded by saying “it hurts a lot” to miss the final, but added that “we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad.”

Man City hit out at UEFA after referral to financial chamber

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City have hit back at UEFA, as European soccer’s governing body have referred City to the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) adjudicatory chamber after an investigation into alleged financial fair play irregularities.

This news comes after a report stated that the UEFA panel investigating this case are to recommend that City are banned from playing in the Champions League for at least one season.

In a strongly-worded statement, City say they are “disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by the sudden announcement of the referral” and added that “the decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process.”

On Thursday UEFA released the following statement on potential financial fair play breaches by Man City which were reported by multiple outlets.

“The Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) chief investigator, after having consulted with the other members of the independent investigatory chamber of the CFCB, has today decided to refer Manchester City FC to the CFCB adjudicatory chamber following the conclusion of his investigation. The CFCB investigatory chamber had opened an investigation into Manchester City FC on March 7, 2019 for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations that were made public in various media outlets. UEFA will not be making any further comment on the matter until a decision is announced by the CFCB adjudicatory chamber.”

Manchester City: Accusations of Financial Impropriety are ‘entirely false’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The New York Times bombshell report that UEFA could recommend a one-year European ban on Manchester City has forced a response out of the Premier League winners.

[REPORT: UEFA investigators to recommend UCL ban to Man City]

In a statement, Manchester City called accusations of financial and accounting impropriety “entirely false,” and stated that their financials and proof that all their deals have been done above board has been provided to UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body Investigatory Chamber. Manchester City has previously been accused of juicing their finances with high-priced sponsorship deals from organizations owned-by or related to Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, effectively just paying themselves to ensure the club isn’t breaching Financial Fair Play.

“The New York Times report citing “people familiar with the case” is therefore extremely concerning,” Man City’s statement said. “The implications are that either Manchester City’s good faith in the CFCB IC is misplaced or the CFCB IC process is being misrepresented by individuals intent on damaging the Club’s reputation and its commercial interests. Or both. Manchester City’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record. The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false, and comprehensive proof of this fact has been provided to the CFCB IC.”

In the past, punishments for breaching FFP have included fines in the millions of dollars and some transfer restrictions. Both Man City and Paris Saint-Germain have been in the spotlight for potential FFP breaches because the two clubs, both owned by Middle Eastern royal families with nearly unlimited resources, have spent lavishly to improve their respective squads to take them to the top of Europe’s echelon in as short amount of time as possible.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that UEFA would approve a recommendation to give Man City a severe ban from European competition, and even if they did, Man City would fight it tooth and nail, considering how much money there is to make from playing in the UEFA Champions League every year.

Report: UEFA investigators to recommend UCL ban for Man City

Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images
2 Comments

The UEFA investigatory team tasked with examining potential violations of Financial Fair Play rules by Manchester City is expected to recommend the two-time reigning Premier League champions be given a ban from the Champions League, according to a report from the New York Times.

[ MORE: Guardiola, Man City cement their spot in history ]

Man City are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

There are additional allegations that other sponsorship companies are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, owner of Man City. A ban from the Champions League would hit Sheikh Mansour the hardest of any prospective punishment, as it is the one competition the club is yet to win since he bought the club in 2008, and the one he most desperately covets.

[ MORE: Top 10 Premier League goals of the 2018-19 season ]

It is unclear when a potential ban would be handed down, or for how long it might last.

UEFA president: We will explore UCL revamp despite criticism

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
1 Comment

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin countered “negative energy” from critics of any Champions League overhaul that could lock in places by defending the need to be “constantly thinking about improving” European competitions.

Leagues across the continent – particularly Spain’s La Liga – fear their competitions would be damaged if UEFA pursued a concept to create a largely closed-off Champions League where 24 out of 32 teams are guaranteed automatic qualification the following season regardless of where they finish in their domestic leagues.

“We have the best competition in the world by far, for now we don’t know when or if any changes to our competition will be made,” Ceferin told The Associated Press. “So the ones who criticize every day should start taking care of football in their own countries. I am not sure if there’s nothing to criticize.

“We just agreed to continue one more cycle (of European competitions) 2021-24 without changing anything. UEFA is a very dynamic organization and always has to explore if and how our competitions can get better. We are constantly thinking about improving. The reason that you’re the best doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get better.”

As part of a broad consultation process, Ceferin is willing to study any concept from the European Leagues organization for UEFA’s three competitions, including the Europa League 2 which begins in 2021.

But the concept that is embraced by the elite clubs was presented to the leagues, including La Liga President Javier Tebas, in a private meeting on Wednesday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

“We were attacked even before the first meeting and we thought for a while that any consultation process is not appreciated by some of the stakeholders,” Ceferin said. “It’s perfectly clear to me that we are not just a stakeholder, we are the governing body of European football and we have to safeguard all European football. But I don’t like secret meetings. I don’t like to hide things from the stakeholders. That’s why we started the discussion so early.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do it after we see all the negative energy, hostility, false solidarity coming out.”

Ceferin and the European Club Association were irked by Tebas hosting a meeting on Tuesday in Madrid of clubs and leagues to amass opposition to any significant changes to the format of European competitions. The AP reported Friday from a recording of Wednesday’s meeting with leagues that Ceferin hit out at suggestions he was “killing football” by looking at ideas that include enlarging a new third competition to 64 teams.

A Champions League concept, which has been seen by the AP, would introduce promotion and relegation to the Champions League that would help to lock in guaranteed slots for elite clubs.

Four Champions League teams would be relegated each season into the next season’s second-tier Europa League. They would be replaced by the Europa League semifinalists, who would be promoted.

From the 2024-25 group stage, 24 of the 32 teams could retain their places the following season regardless of their domestic league finish.

Countries could be limited to five representatives, retaining the current limit that allows the top four in England, Germany, Spain and Italy to qualify alongside a Champions League winner from those countries which didn’t make the domestic top four.

National champions would only get four qualifying places to compete in preliminary rounds.

The changes would reduce the possibility of this season’s Champions League finalists repeating the feat under any revamp unless they were already in the competition.

Liverpool last won the English league in 1990 and Tottenham triumphed in 1961 – long before UEFA expanded Champions League entry beyond domestic champions in 1997.

While Liverpool is a five-time European champion, Tottenham has now made its first final in its fourth-ever season in the Champions League since 2010, having only previously played in the European Cup in the 1961-62 campaign.

Both teams relied on dramatic second-leg comebacks to reach the June 1 final in Madrid, while English rivals Arsenal and Chelsea made the Europa League final on May 29.

“This season’s Champions League and Europa League semifinals shows that those are by far the best club competitions in the world,” Ceferin said. “Exciting matches, fantastic football and thrilling ends. At the same time there’s a lot of hostility in the media from some stakeholders about an idea for changing the competition.”

Ceferin was still president of the Slovenian federation when the last significant changes were made to the Champions League, just before his Sept. 2016 elevation to the UEFA leadership. At the time, Ceferin denounced a secret deal that saw Spain, Germany, England and Italy exert influence over UEFA to gain 16 of the 32 Champions League group-stage places.

“In 2016, there was no consultation process and changes were made without consulting the stakeholders,” Ceferin said. “Now we even don’t propose any changes yet but we have already started to consult and share the ideas.”