Manchester City are facing the threat of top flight expulsion after being charged by the Premier League with more than 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations.
In what is potentially one of the biggest scandals in English football history, the Premier League champions were on Monday hit by a catalogue of charges covering 14 seasons from 2009/10 to the current campaign.
The bombshell revelations follow a four-year investigation by the Premier League into City's practices and, if the charges are proven, the club could face an unprecedented range of punishments including points deductions, sweeping fines and the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the league.
An independent disciplinary committee - which seems likely to be to be chaired by Murray Rosen KC - will hear the charges. The hearings will be held in private but no timescale has been set.
In a statement released on Monday morning, the Premier League said: "The Premier League confirms that it has today referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club to a commission."
City expressed "surprise" at the Premier League's move and said it would welcome the commission's hearing as a chance to put allegations of financial impropriety that have dogged the club for years "to rest once and for all".
"Manchester City is surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with," the club said in a statement.
"The club welcomes the review of this matter by an independent commission, to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.
"As such we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all."
The reigning Premier League champions, who have won six titles since the Abu Dhabi-led takeover of 2008, have also been charged with failing to co-operate with the investigation, which has been carried out by an independent commission. Those charges specifically apply to the period between 2018/19 and the current campaign.
City have also been charged by the Premier League over its alleged breach of Uefa regulations, having been found to have fallen foul of Club Licensing and FFP regulation in Europe.
'This is tactical'
City sources believe the timing of the Premier League's announcement is no coincidence with a long-awaited government white paper on football governance due imminently.
Insiders at the club feel it is part of a strategy by the Premier League to show they are capable of adequate governance amid calls for an independent football regulator. "This is tactical," one source said.
Eyebrows were also raised at City that the club were not given any prior notification of the charges. It is understood that Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, was first informed of the news as it was about to go live on the Premier League's website and there is said to be some disquiet at the club that elements of the media became aware of the information before them.
The scale of the alleged breaches is eye-watering. The charges relating to financial reporting span nine seasons from 2009/10 to 2017/18.
Additionally, City have been charged with not cooperating with the investigation and not handing over documents as required over a five-season period from 2018/19 to this season. The Premier League first opened their investigation into City in March 2019.
Premier League rule W.51 covers the sanctioning powers of a commission where an alleged breach or breaches are found proven.
These range from a reprimand, from the deduction of points up to a recommendation to the league to expel a club from the competition.
The commission has the power to make such sanctions conditional on defined actions being taken within a fixed time period, and respondents have a right of appeal.
The chair of the independent Premier League judicial panel is Murray Rosen KC, who was appointed in 2020.
He will now select individuals to sit alongside him on a commission to consider the alleged rule breaches. The panel also has access to consult other independent financial and legal experts.
"The members of the Commission will be appointed by the independent Chair of the Premier League Judicial Panel," the Premier League said in a statement.
"The proceedings before the Commission will, in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82, be confidential and heard in private. Under Premier League Rule W.82.2, the Commission's final award will be published on the Premier League's website.
"This confirmation is made in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1. The Premier League will be making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice."