Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, have sealed their places in the top four of the English Premier League table, a development which means automatic UEFA Champions League qualification for them next season.
Arsenal and Manchester United, the remaining two teams of the leagues elite six, will be playing in the less fancied UEFA Europa League. But while Man U have resigned their fate to Europa, Arsenal, which may end up in fifth place, (provided they win their last league match against Burnley on Sunday, May 12) still have a chance to play in the Champions League.
It is common knowledge that since the club is still very much in the race for the UEFA Europa League title, the trophy would grant them automatic Champions League spot. This is in line with UEFA rules which says the winner of Europa League is automatically awarded a place in next season’s Champions League, no matter what position they finish in their own domestic division.
Arsenal already have one foot into the Europa League final, after beating Valencia 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the semi-final first leg.
But there is another way Arsenal could make it to next season’s Champions League even without winning the Europa League trophy.
Manchester City’s financial problems is Arsenal’s second possible window to Champions League.
UEFA has opened opened investigations into alleged financial fair play (FFP) violations by Manchester City.
German news magazine Der Spiegel had published a series of claims, based on leaked documents, City have violated FFP rules but the club denied the allegation, describing it as “entirely false”.
In January, UEFA’s chief FFP investigator Yves Leterme said City could face a Champions League ban if the claims are proven. This automatically means that the club’s qualification in the competition will be handed over to the next best team that have yet to qualify in its league. If Arsenal finishes fifth, it would be the next best team and thus clinch the spot. Manchester United may however leapfrog Arsenal if the latter bungles its chance against Burnley on Sunday.
So, in simple terms, Arsenal’s Champions League chances are dependent on either an Europa League trophy of Manchester City’s disqualification due to FFP violations.
FFP rules are designed to ensure the amount clubs spend on their players and wages is approximately equal to what they earn in commercial revenue and prize money.
UEFA previously found City had breached FFP rules in 2014.
The two parties reached a settlement, with City paying a £49m fine – £32m of which was suspended – while their Champions League squad was reduced for the 2014-15 season.
Now, UEFA is looking into claims City made a banned £200,000 payment to Jadon Sancho’s agent when the England winger was 14 years old.
That allegation was also made in documents published by Der Spiegel last month.
In November 2018, the newspaper alleged City and their sponsors manipulated contracts to wipe out a £9.9m shortfall in 2013 and circumvent FFP regulations.
After those claims, UEFA said it would reopen FFP investigations on a “on a case-by-case basis” if there is evidence of “abuse”.
Reacting, Manchester City said in a statement that it “welcomes the opening of a formal Uefa investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails”
It added that “the club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”