Manchester City are set to be hit with Uefa sanctions imminently after the governing body confirmed the investigation into potential financial fair play breaches has concluded.
The club, which is thought to be facing a one-year ban from the Champions League, will learn its fate from the Club Financial Control Body's (CFCB) adjudicatory chamber, which is now reviewing the investigation's findings.
It is unusual for the adjudicatory chamber to rule against the conclusions of chief investigator Yves Leterme and a decision can be expected within days at the most.
Uefa confirmed in a statement on Thursday morning that the 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".
In response to the latest Uefa announcement, City said in a statement that the club is "disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by the sudden announcement of the referral".
In a scathing attack on the investigation, the club added: "The leaks to media over the last week are indicative of the process that has been overseen by Mr. Leterme. Manchester City is entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body. "The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC to the Chamber.
"The decision contains mistakes, misinterpretations and confusions fundamentally borne out of a basic lack of due process and there remain significant unresolved matters raised by Manchester City FC as part of what the Club has found to be a wholly unsatisfactory, curtailed, and hostile process."
Uefa said the investigation had been formally opened on March 7, but Telegraph Sport reported as far back as December last year that the governing body were considering a one-year ban.
Leterme has been leading the review into evidence surrounding an alleged £60 million payments deception detailed during the Football Leaks scandal last autumn. He said in January that the club face "the heaviest punishment" if the allegations are proven. Senior Uefa officials - who previously launched sanctions against City in 2014 - are particularly enraged by leaked files from 2015, which claim almost £60 million was paid directly into the club by their billionaire Arab owners but declared as sponsorship.
City broken their silence on the investigation this week, claiming that suggestions of wrongdoing are “entirely false” and that there is “comprehensive proof” otherwise.
The club directly addressed an allegation published by The New York Times this week that Uefa financial investigators meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, two weeks ago had agreed to recommend a one-year ban.
City said in a statement that the suggestion those involved in the investigatory process, overseen by Yves Leterme, the former Belgian prime minister, had already found the club guilty of breaking financial fair play regulations was “extremely concerning”. There are eight members of the Uefa Investigatory Chamber of the semi-autonomous, Club Financial Control Body, which oversees the monitoring of, among other things, financial fair play.
Among them is Rick Parry, who served as chief executive at Liverpool from 1998 to 2009. Previously, he was the Premier League chief executive. The final decision is made by Leterme, who is the chairman and chief investigator of Uefa’s Investigatory Chamber and, in the event of finding a breach of regulations, would then present his evidence to the decision-making Adjudicatory Chamber.
Parry declined to comment on Tuesday when asked whether he was one of the Investigatory Chamber members who was looking at the City case, or indeed whether he considered there to be any conflict of interest that might lead to him recusing himself.
Also listed by Uefa as serving in the Investigatory Chamber are a selection of sports law and regulatory law experts and other legal academics from six further Uefa nations. One of them, Petros Mavroidis, a Greek national, told CNN that no final decision had been made in regard to City.
The club has been investigated by Uefa since documents obtained by the website Football Leaks, which cast doubt on their FFP probity, were published by Der Spiegel magazine in Germany in November. Were a one-year Champions League ban to be imposed, it would be most likely to take effect in the 2020-2021 season, and would set the stage for a major legal countermove by City.
The club are certain to appeal any Uefa ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which would take until at least the autumn to reach any conclusion. A source close to the investigation confirmed all Uefa sanctions would be frozen while any appeal took place.
In their statement, City, who also face separate probes into their transfer dealings by Fifa, the Premier League and the Football Association, expressed anger that details of the Uefa investigation may have been subject to a leak. Since the first publication of documents leaked online, City have issued just two statements, the second in response to Uefa announcing its investigation in March in which the club said it welcomed the chance to clear its reputation.
On Tuesday, City said: "The New York Times report citing 'people familiar with the case' is extremely concerning The implications are that either Manchester City’s good faith in the CFCB [Club Financial Control Body] IC [Investigatory Chamber] 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.”