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NEWS: Manchester City chairman Regulation of football finances must be more sensible

Khaldoon made the remarks in an in-house interview recorded last Saturday, prior to The Times reporting on Tuesday that City had issued a legal claim challenging the validity of the Premier League’s associated party transaction (APT) rules.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak pose for a photo with the Premier League trophy after the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

Khaldoon made the remarks in an in-house interview recorded last Saturday, prior to The Times reporting on Tuesday that City had issued a legal claim challenging the validity of the Premier League's associated party transaction (APT) rules.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

In the same interview, Khaldoon admitted it had taken “longer than anyone hoped for” for the 115 Premier League charges against the club over alleged breaches of financial rules to be heard.

Khaldoon was asked for his views on the regulatory landscape City and all clubs across Europe face, and whether he envisaged it having an impact on this summer’s transfer market.

Clubs involved in UEFA competitions next season will only be able to spend 80 per cent of revenue on squad costs such as player wages, transfer and agents’ fees, with the figure dropping to 70 per cent thereafter.

Khaldoon said in the interview, which was released on Wednesday: “I hope there’s a bit more sensibility in regulating, (that there is) always a balanced approach.

“This is good for all the leagues, be it in England or the rest of Europe. I think you won’t see the same level (of transfer spending) as we’ve seen in the past few years because of the level of regulations that have come into place over the last 12 months.”

Khaldoon said he believed the focus of regulators should be on player workload rather than club spending.

“My message here is let’s focus on the mental health. Let’s focus on the physical health of our players,” he said.

“I think that is very important, rather than spending so much time on the regulatory issues that just kind of slow down the growth of the game.”

The Times reported that City’s challenge to the APT rules will be aired at an arbitration hearing starting on Monday.

The APT rules are designed to ensure that any commercial deal or player transfer between a club and entities with links to that club’s ownership are conducted at fair market value, so that club revenues are not artificially inflated.

The Times says the rules will be challenged under competition law, and that the Premier League has sought the support of other clubs in conducting its defence against the claim.

A successful challenge which declared the APT rules unlawful would give clubs free rein to strike commercial deals without independent oversight. A ruling in City’s favour could even have a wider impact on Premier League governance, where rule changes are decided by a majority vote among clubs.

City are also preparing to defend themselves against 115 charges laid by the Premier League over alleged breaches of its financial rules.

The hearing in that case is expected to begin in the autumn, and Khaldoon said it was “frustrating” that the charges were referenced frequently as City got closer to – and ultimately sealed – a fourth straight Premier League title last month.

“Of course, it’s frustrating,” Khaldoon added in the interview. “I think the reference is always frustrating. Having it being talked about the way it’s being talked about, I can feel, of course, for our fan base, for everyone associated with the club, to have these charges constantly referenced.

“We as a club have to respect that there’s a process that that we have to go through, and we’ll go through it.

“It’s taking longer than anyone hoped for but it is what it is. Let’s be judged by the facts, and not by claims and counterclaims.”

The Premier League commenced an investigation into City in December 2018, but the club subsequently challenged the jurisdiction and impartiality of an arbitration panel formed to determine whether the Premier League could oblige the club to provide the documents and information it was seeking.

That challenge became public knowledge in 2021 when the court of appeal supported an earlier ruling that the dispute between City and the league could be reported.

Lord Justice Males, a member of the three-judge panel, said of the investigation: “It is surprising, and a matter of legitimate public concern, that so little progress has been made after two and a half years – during which, it may be noted, the club has twice been crowned as Premier League champions.”

City were charged by the Premier League in February 2023. City denied any wrongdoing, and at the time the charges were laid, said they welcomed the opportunity for an independent commission “to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position”.

The club added: “As such, we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all.”

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