Manchester City's bid to overturn their European ban could end with Liverpool in the dock over allegations that the Premier League champions-elect hacked into the Etihad’s scouting database.
Sunday Mirror Sport has been told that City will “leave nothing off the table” when they attempt to beat the two-year suspension and £25million fine levied against them by UEFA over FFP violations.
City will take a powerful legal team to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – and they will be armed with evidence that threatens to blow the lid off the murky work of football politics.
A central tenet of City’s argument will be that UEFA’s decision to punish them is based on an illegally-obtained raft of emails written by senior club officials that were taken out of context to deliver a guilty verdict.
The club’s servers were accessed by student Rui Pinto in 2015.
Pinto is currently being held in prison in Portugal awaiting trial after being charged with 90 counts of hacking, sabotage and fraud.
Details of how Pinto was able to break into City’s systems – and his motivations for doing so – are likely to lead to questions on how City ramped up computer security after discovering in 2013 that their scouting database had been hacked.
A forensic investigation by an independent team of experts pointed the finger at some former City scouts who had left the club to join Liverpool.
A complaint to Anfield led to Liverpool agreeing to pay a £1million compensation package and both clubs signing a confidentiality agreement.
When details of the episode resurfaced last September, the Football Association decided not to take matters further due to the “age of the alleged concerns” and the fact that the clubs had agreed a financial settlement.
The FA did, however, offer the caveat that they would look again if further evidence came to light.
If full details of the Spygate matter are aired at the CAS hearing in Lausanne, it will put renewed pressure on Wembley bosses to act.
It could also draw the attention of the police, with offences under the 1990 Computer Misuse Act punishable by a two-year prison sentence and £5,000 fine.
It has not yet been decided whether City’s appeal will be opened up to media scrutiny.
Both UEFA and City would have to agree to the proceedings being reported.
City have appointed leading QC David Pannick to represent them.
The 63-year-old, who became Baron Pannick of Radlett when he was awarded a life peerage in 2008, twice defeated the government in their bid to hurry through Brexit .
First he successfully represented Gina Miller when she won her bid to prevent Theresa May from taking the UK out of the European Union without parliamentary consent two years ago.
And he also prevailed when Mrs Miller took another case to the UK Supreme Court, claiming that prime minister Boris Johnson had given unlawful advice to the Queen in his bid to prorogue parliament last September.
Baron Pannick will spearhead a daunting City legal team that also includes legal powerhouses Freshfields, Bruckhaus Deringer, Pinsent Masons and Monkton Chambers.
City have also retained the services of Geneva-based Kellerhals Carrard if they are ultimately forced to take their case to the Swiss Federal Court.
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