A TOTAL shambles. And the end of Financial Fair Play.
At least, that was the immediate response to the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to wipe out Manchester City’s two-year Uefa ban.
After all, City have long argued the very concepts that initially underpinned FFP, an attempt to prevent clubs amounting catastrophic debts, had been subverted into something very different.
Instead, City – and others – have insisted FFP became a tool of the “cartel” – the existing cabal of Europe’s elite clubs who did not want interlopers breaking into, or breaking up, their cosy little club.
City, with their Abu Dhabi financial backers, and PSG, effectively the sporting arm of the Qatari government, represented both a huge threat and an unwelcome, unwanted challenge.
Uefa, it was felt, became too protective of the old guard, insufficiently willing to allow the existing order to be threatened.
In truth, it was more complicated than that.
We will not know for certain why City won their case until later this week when the full CAS award is published.
But the outline statement hinted Uefa’s biggest problem was failing to follow its OWN rulebook.
CAS explained the three Judges in Lausanne had determined “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body were either not established or time-barred”.
In other words, there was not enough evidence to stand up some of the allegations – and the others took place outside the five-year statute of limitations.
That there will be casualties inside Uefa is evident, no matter what the full CAS ruling says.
City pointed accusatory fingers in the direction of the head of the investigations unit – former Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.
They will now expect his head on a platter. And probably get it.
After all Uefa have been left humiliated and embarrassed – not to mention significantly out of pocket.
But Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin, who has sought to build bridges in recent months – he visited the Etihad on a number of occasions – may be able to hide behind the independence of the procedure.
Uefa “contract out” financial and off-field rule prosecutions to the investigations unit. It gives the European governing body enough wriggle room to claim they were not responsible.
Ceferin had on a number of occasions also suggested there was a “concrete case” but he also insisted: “Look, as a lawyer I respect the system.
“The system we have is an investigations chamber and an adjudicatory chamber, and then we have CAS in Lausanne.
“For some administrators it’s a problem if you have an independent body. For me it’s a privilege.”
Yet even in March, three months before City’s three-day CAS hearing, Ceferin was publicly recognising FFP in its current incarnation was no longer apt and fitting.
He said: “It’s too early to say how it will look in the future but we are thinking about it and will probably have to adapt it.
“FFP has been very successful. Now there are no losses or very few, so we will have to adapt it to different times. Our experts are in discussion.”
Within weeks, European football was shutdown by the Covid-19 crisis, which led to the first stage of the FFP reset.
Uefa has already announced that clubs will not have to open their 2019-20 books for inspection until after the 2020-21 season, allowing two years’ worth of finances to be measured.
It means that the next FFP cases are unlikely to be announced for THREE years, by which time the rules will have been rewritten considerably.
In the meantime, City will feel liberated to spend, spend, spend.
Those clubs – Chelsea in particular – that have tightened their belts to meet the requirements may feel they have wasted their time and look to follow the City splurge.
If the proposed Saudi owners are given the go ahead to buy Newcastle the floodgates look open there too.
Whatever the exact details, things have changed. The only question is by how much.
But it seems likely Uefa may have to go back to something approaching the original principles of FFP as a protective measure not a punishment regime.
City’s win may be as much about process as facts. But the repercussions will be immense.
Pep Guardiola was pictured grinning with his staff in a now deleted Instagram post after the decision was announced.
And Manchester United and Chelsea fans were fuming with the news as it will affect their ability to qualify for this season’s Champions League.