Manchester City are currently under investigation regarding a potential breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, with the latest development being that they could be punished with a one-season ban if they are found guilty of breaking UEFA regulations.
UEFA launched a formal investigation in March 2019 following allegations made by Der Spiegel, which were in turn based on information obtained from whistleblower organisation Football Leaks.
The Etihad side have repeatedly rejected the accusations and denied any sort of wrongdoing.
A new report by the New York Times on Monday, however, stated that members of UEFA's investigating chamber (IC) recommended a one-season ban from the Champions League. It would be a particularly devastating punishment for the Manchester side, who have repeatedly targeted the coveted European trophy as their main ambition as a club.
But if City are deemed guilty, could they really be handed a one-season ban from Europe's elite competition – and would it free up a spot for another Premier League club to replace them?
Will Man City be banned from Europe?
It is extremely unlikely that City would be banned from next season's European competition as a result of a potential FFP breach, as the club have the right to immediately appeal the decision made by UEFA and take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Even if members UEFA's Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) wish to punish them with a one-season European ban - with the final decision to be made by chief investigator Yves Leterme - City could escalate their appeal.
Moreover, with qualification games for next season's Champions League commencing in June, UEFA have to face a race against time to quickly finalise a sanction that could then be overturned anyway.
Regardless, if found guilty, it would be a major setback for a club whose desperations to be crowned European champions for the first time are well-documented as they could also be set with a transfer ban. The FA, Premier League and FIFA are also investigating City for their signing of youth players.
Chelsea were found in breach of regulations relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18, resulting in a two-window transfer ban.
Have teams have been banned from European football before?
Following that ruling, UEFA handed a "proportionate disciplinary measure" via CFCB which stated that the Rossoneri will have their squad restricted in UEFA competitions. However, they deemed that the Serie A side could still face European suspension if they do not break even before June 2021.
City have been punished for their FFP violations in previous years though have never been banned from European competition. For their 2014 FFP breach, City were handed spending cap and a reduced Champions League squad.
Paris Saint-German received similar financial punishment. In 2014, the Qatari-owned club were judged to have broken FFP rules when the CFCB deemed their back-dated €192 million (£167m) sponsorship deal with Qatar Tourism Authority, which erased their losses, had an unfair value.
UEFA's revised valuation saw PSG's deficit for 2013-14 reach €107m (£92m) - more than double the amount allowed under FFP rules - which limit losses to €45m (£39m) over the last two years.
PSG were hit with a fine, a spending cap and, like City and Milan, were only allowed to register 21 players for the next UCL campaign.
In non-FFP cases, English teams were banned for five years from competing in Europe in 1985 following the death of 39 Italian and Belgian football fans at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium. A riot caused by English football hooligans at that year’s European Cup final involving Liverpool and Juventus led to UEFA punishing all English clubs.
Liverpool were given an initial indefinite ban, which was eventually set to 10 years, and then reduced to six.
Will Arsenal or Man Utd replace Man City in Champions League?
Given that it's unlikely City will even be handed a one-season ban from the Champions League, there is little chance of their spot in Europe being replaced by another Premier League side.
City automatically qualified for the Champions League by winning the Premier League, and all four or five of the spots allocated to English teams have been filled with runners-up Liverpool, third-placed Chelsea, fourth-placed Tottenham and potentially Arsenal should they win the Europa League.
Gunners fans might be hopeful of replacing City in the Champions League outright should the ban be upheld, but there is little possibility of that happening.
Man Utd fans will also find themselves optimistic of a return to the Champions League after missing out this season with a sixth-placed finish – ideally, they would fill the fifth European spot should Arsenal win the Europa League – but such fantasies are unfounded.