The Government is adamant Manchester City’s Premier League financial charges were not discussed during a meeting between the club and the sports minister last spring.
Stuart Andrew held talks in May with Simon Cliff, City Group’s general counsel, to discuss football governance reform, freedom of information responses say.
The meeting took place three months after City were hit with charges covering 14 seasons amounting to what, if proven, would be the biggest scandal in English football history.
However, after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) refused to publish minutes of the subsequent meeting, sources close to talks dismissed any suggestion the financial breach case had been discussed.
Investigative journalist Russell Scott had asked the department a host of questions about a May 23 encounter with City “to discuss the Football Governance White Paper”.
In refusing his request for minutes, DCMS wrote that they were “exempt from release” as “the information would or would likely inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation”.
Manchester City held a meeting with Sports Minister Stuart Andrew last May.
The meeting was to discuss the Football Governance White Paper.
I sent in an FOI request for a copy of the minutes - they’ve refused to provide them.
Ministers think it’s not in the public interest
— Russell Scott (@RussellScott1) January 20, 2024
“This is a qualified exemption and the department is obliged to consider the full public interest arguments for the information we hold,” the letter adds.
The responses also raises the “the strong public interest in protecting the ‘safe space’ around meetings with stakeholders in which it is essential for attendees to be able to discuss matters candidly”.
Publishing minutes, the letter suggests, could “dissuade attendees from being frank and honest if attendees are concerned that their views and opinions raised in meetings will be released”.
Telegraph Sport understands details of the Premier League case against City have been kept confidential from Government, having been referred to an independent commission.
City are understood to be among a host of clubs and sporting organisations to have met with Andrew, the sports minister, and other DCMS figures to discuss a proposed independent regulator.
During an appearance before the DCMS Select Committee last week, the competition’s chief executive Richard Masters confirmed “all clubs responded to the White Paper”.
“Clubs have met with DCMS during this period and have been invited in to have discussions,” he told MPs. “Those discussions have taken place.”
At the same hearing, Masters detailed how City have been issued with a date upon which the club will fight the final hearing on their 115 Premier League charges.
As detailed by Telegraph Sport last week, there will be developments as early as this week, although precisely what remains unclear. Neither side has been prepared to discuss any part of the case. As per the published written reasons in Everton’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR) case last year, submissions and arguments are likely to be made regularly by both sides in the City case.
The case is being heard by an independent commission, appointed by Murray Rosen KC, the chair of the Premier League’s judicial panel, which will announce its decision to both parties on the proposed date. All independent commission decisions are announced on the Premier League website, as per the league’s rules. Both sides – City and the Premier League – are likely to be notified before the ruling is published, although how much notice parties are given is never disclosed.
In the case of Everton’s recent PSR breach, the case concluded with a four-day long hearing ending on October 20, after months of legal exchanges. The independent commission hearing the case then published the verdict on November 27.