Judge in Man City's UEFA case could have conflict of interest

One of the judges on the five-man panel tasked with determining whether Manchester City should be banned from the Champions League over a potential breach of financial fair play rules might have to recuse himself from deliberations.

According to an entry on the website of the law firm of Charles Flint, QC, the barrister is a director of the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).

The DFSA regulates financial services in the Dubai International Financial Centre, a special economic zone set up by the government of the United Arab Emirates. The owner of Manchester City, via the Abu Dhabi United Group, is Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Emirati royal family and deputy prime minister of the UAE.

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This could present a perceived conflict of interest.

According to the procedural rules of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), any member would be expected to "disclose any circumstance which might give rise to a conflict of interest" as members of the CFCB "may not take part in consideration of a case if there is any justifiable doubt as to his impartiality."

Flint could willingly recuse himself or he could be asked to step aside by the other members of the adjudicatory chamber.

Manchester City were referred by the CFCB's chief investigator only Thursday, and sources tell ESPN FC that the adjudicatory chamber has yet to meet. The body, led by Jose Narciso da Cunha Rodrigues, a judge at the European Court of Justice, has a total of five members, and at least three must be present to deliberate.

Given that they must attend in person -- video conferencing is not allowed -- and given that these are independent arbitrators with busy professional lives, finding a suitable date when at least three can attend might take some time -- particularly if, as is possible, Flint ends up recusing himself (or is recused).

That could delay any final decision in this complex case. AC Milan, for example, were referred to the adjudicatory chamber some five weeks ago and have yet to receive an answer.

Manchester City insist they have "irrefutable evidence" that they did not breach regulations and are "entirely confident of a positive outcome." But it is looking entirely likely that they will not receive a definitive answer for some time. Particularly since, if the adjudicatory chamber finds them guilty, they can still appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

With the draw for the preliminary round of the 2019-20 Champions League scheduled for June 11 and matches to be played as early as late June, it appears highly likely that, if there is a guilty verdict and if it is upheld by CAS, the sanction would not be enforced until the 2020-21 season.