Manchester City hire lawyer who earns as much as Erling Haaland for Premier League battle

Manchester City hire lawyer who earns as much as Erling Haaland for Premier League battle - Telegraph/Heathcliff O'Malley

Manchester City hire lawyer who earns as much as Erling Haaland for Premier League battle – Telegraph/Heathcliff O’Malley

The biggest court case in Premier League history – with huge implications for Manchester City and for English football – will be fought by the two parties’ respective lawyers and at least one KC who can negotiate hourly rates comparable to the highest paid football players.

Not quite the glamor or theater of Pep Guardiola v Jurgen Klopp or Erling Haaland v Virgil Van Dijk, but Kevin Plumb v Simon Cliff, with some big KCs on both sides, looks set to be the clash that could define the Premier League’s future as well as his past.

Plumb is the Premier League’s general adviser and spearheaded the legal operation which took nearly four years of intense work before announcing his 115 charges against City on Monday. Cliff advised Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group in the 2008 takeover of City and has since pursued other financial fair play lawsuits involving the club.

At stake are the integrity of the Premier League’s rules on how much ownership clubs are allowed to spend, the inviolability of sponsorship contracts and clubs’ compliance with disclosure rules where those laws are suspected to have been breached. For City, who deny any wrongdoing, it is a battle to retain their Premier League status and possibly the six titles they have won since 2012.

Plumb, who has played in the Premier League since September 2015, has had more than one legal crisis since City’s investigation began. First there was the unprecedented closure of the Premier League due to Covid in 2020, which meant negotiating discounts for broadcasters and changing profit and sustainability rules for clubs. In April 2021, the Premier League faced the breakout of six of its members, including City, with the European Super League.

At the time, the City investigation has been scrutinized by the Premier League board. It started when Claudia Arney was the interim chairman of the Premier League, during Gary Hoffman’s tenure and now in the early months of new chairman Alison Brittain. The progress of the investigation was discussed with the management during the term. The 19 clubs other than City in the league in any given season have been told that any form of lobbying on their part is unwelcome.

The case against City was set up by Plumb and the Premier League’s outside law firm, Bird & Bird, for whom they have long been clients. The Premier League’s struggle to get full disclosure was reflected in the 115 charges brought against City by Plumb’s legal team.

Kevin Plumb is the General Adviser to the Premier League - Sportspromedia

Kevin Plumb is the General Adviser to the Premier League – Sportspromedia

The Premier League has charged City under the current handbook’s B.15 rule, which requires all clubs to act “with the utmost good faith”. For example, the Premier League rules state that breaking these rules may mean that a club is “acting unfairly towards the league or another club” or “engaging in conduct intended to circumvent these rules or undermining the investigation of the board of directors to comply with it”. with them.”

Plumb, originally from Cumbria, has already had to fight the legal team at Cliff and City in July 2021 to get the case to that point. That was when City themselves tried to challenge the jurisdiction of the Premier League rules.

Cliff himself played a prominent role in the allegations made by German magazine Der Spiegel in its original revelations about City’s finances in November 2018 that prompted the Premier League investigation. It was alleged that in looking for ways City could continue to pump Sheikh Mansour’s wealth into the club without facing sanctions from UEFA under financial fair play rules, Cliff invoked the Battle of Agincourt.

The UEFA FFP revolution was driven by former France international and then UEFA president Michel Platini, prompting Cliff to call City’s attempts to circumvent it “Project Longbow”, Der Spiegel claimed. In an internal email, Cliff said it was appropriate because the longbow was “the weapon the English used to beat the French at Crecy and Agincourt.”

Cliff and Plumb, in the tradition of English football’s current transfer frenzy, have recruited some very expensive teammates. Lawyer magazine has reported that Lord Pannick will represent KC City. Pannick can earn up to £80,000 a day, which would be equal – pro rata – to Haaland’s City deal, which is said to make him the highest-earning player at the club. City hopes Pannick will not have to be signed for five years.

Pannick, The Lawyer reports, will face Blackstone Chambers’ Premier League colleague Adam Lewis KC. Blackstone’s Andrew Hunter KC and Jason Pobjoy appear alongside Lewis. Pannick’s side for City is Paul Harris KC of Monckton Chambers.

Cliff and City’s legal team have reversed the UEFA sanctions that originally stemmed from Der Spiegel’s revelations. UEFA banned City from its competitions for two years and fined the club €30 million for alleged FFP offences. In 2020, the Court of Arbitration for Sport annulled the ban and reduced the fine to €10 million for failing to cooperate with UEFA’s investigation. It was a big win for City, and this time they are back in action with even more at stake.

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