What Man City had to show in legal row after rivals' move angered Amanda Staveley at Newcastle

Manchester City will have had to demonstrate that the Premier League's sponsorship rules are 'preventing, limiting or restricting the functioning of proper competition' in a legal battle that could have huge consequences for Newcastle United.

That is the view of partners and associates at the Mishcon de Reya Sports Group, who have acted on some of the most high-profile sports matters in recent years, after Manchester City challenged the validity of the Premier League's associated party transaction (APT) rules during an arbitration hearing last month. These regulations, which have since been tightened further, were first introduced after Newcastle's takeover in 2021 to ensure all commercial deals with companies associated with clubs' owners were independently assessed to establish they were of fair market value.

Eighteen of Newcastle's Premier League rivals voted in favour of the original rules to leave Amanda Staveley 'p----- off'. Staveley later suggested that there was a 'fear that we would have an unfair advantage' and the financier went as far to say that clubs do 'everything they can to make sure' the Champions League places are available to 'as few people as possible'.

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On that point, Manchester City have said that rival clubs only introduced these regulations in response to Newcastle's takeover so that they could 'safeguard their own commercial advantages'. Manchester City, who separately deny 115 alleged breaches of the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules, have claimed that their rivals set out to limit deals from companies in the Gulf and, according to the Times, the champions have even cited a quote from a senior executive at another club after alleging there has been 'discrimination against Gulf ownership'.

In Manchester City's 165-page legal argument, the Citizens stated that the rules were 'deliberately intended to stifle commercial freedoms of particular clubs in particular circumstances and, thus, to restrict economic competition'. So what will Manchester City have had to prove?

Well, if, as expected, Manchester City were relying on Chapter 1 of the 1998 Competition Act, which deals with agreements that prevent, restrict or distort competition, partners and associates at the Mishcon de Reya Sports Group have suggested to LawInSport that Manchester City would have needed to demonstrate that the APT rules are preventing, limiting or restricting the functioning of 'proper competition on the merits between clubs'.

These experts have said that Manchester City will have had to show that the APT rules have an 'actual, appreciable negative effect on competition' i.e. that they are anti-competitive by effect or reveal a purpose or aim of 'sufficiently harming competition' that it is not necessary to assess their actual effects i.e. they are anti-competitive by object. They state that Manchester City will also likely have needed to demonstrate that any pro-competitive effects of the APT rules 'do not outweigh any alleged restrictions on competition'.

Mishcon de Reya Sports Group's panel also put forward the Premier League's likely position that the APT rules are 'necessary to protect a legitimate interest - that is to ensure financial sustainability of and competitive fairness between clubs'. A verdict is expected this summer although it is not clear when it will be publicised given the private nature of proceedings.