Date published: Friday 28th June 2019 1:24
AC Milan have struck a deal with UEFA to serve a one-year ban from European football for breaching the governing body’s financial fair play rules, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has announced.
The agreement means Milan will not take their place in next season’s Europa League and UEFA will end its proceedings against the Italian club for overspending between 2016-18 – the second three-year accounting period in a row that got them in hot water with UEFA.
Their place in the Europa League is now likely to go to Torino, who finished seventh in Serie A last season, which means their campaign will start with the final qualifying round for the competition’s group stages on July 25.
UEFA initially gave Milan a two-year FFP ban last summer but the club successfully appealed against that sanction at CAS, only for the seven-time European champions to be referred to UEFA’s financial watchdog again in April.
Under UEFA’s rules, clubs are not allowed to make losses of more than 30million euros (£27m) over three seasons, a cap UEFA believed Milan breached between 2015 and 2017 when they spent £200m on transfers, with more spending in 2018, as well.
But Milan managed to persuade sport’s highest court that their finances would improve under the ownership of American hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation, which assumed control of the club last summer when former owner Li Yonghong missed a repayment on the loan he had taken to buy the club in 2017.
That CAS decision gave them until June 2021 to balance their books or receive an automatic one-year ban from European club football.
But April’s referral for a second FFP breach could have seen the club banned from Europe for two years, which clearly forced Milan back to the negotiating table where they have agreed to serve a one-year ban now while they tidy up their finances under the direction of former Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis.
In a statement, CAS said the earlier decisions made by UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body are “set aside” and replaced with a new order which states Milan are “excluded from participating in the UEFA club competitions of the sporting season 2019/2020” for a “breach of the FFP break-even obligations” in the 2015-17 and 2016-18 monitoring periods.
Milan finished fifth in Serie A last season, only one point behind city rivals Inter in the last Champions League qualification place. They also lost in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia to eventual winners Lazio and failed to progress from the Europa League’s knockout rounds.
But the club have made their intentions to return to Europe’s top table very clear, with new coach Marco Giampaolo wanting to overhaul his midfield and the owners announcing plans to demolish the San Siro home they share with Inter and build a new stadium.
For UEFA, the deal with Milan comes at a time when many critics have wondered if it still has the stomach to defend its FFP rules and take on big clubs that breach them, with cases against Manchester City and Paris St Germain ongoing.
Some will say this agreement is evidence UEFA is not prepared to fight, while others will see it as a good compromise that does not mean the governing body will simply lie down when threatened with lengthy legal action.