AC Milan withdraws from Europa League for finance breaches
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — AC Milan's decision to voluntarily remove itself from next season's Europa League to pay for UEFA financial fair play breaches received the consent of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday.
UEFA had already fined Milan 12 million euros ($13.5 million) of Europa League prize money in the case, which included a CAS ruling to overturn a ban from last season's Europa League.
Milan hopes this wipes the slate clean ahead of ongoing monitoring of its often troubled finances.
CAS said it will invite UEFA's cub financial control body "to issue a procedural order acknowledging the outcome of the present arbitration(s) and terminating the proceedings relating to the 2016/2017/2018 monitoring period, which have become moot."
Although Milan is a seven-time European champion, its finances have taken a hit during a six-year failure to qualify for the Champions League.
While Milan's finances now will not formally be examined by UEFA next season, the Rossoneri's books will still come under scrutiny as soon as they qualify for Europe again.
American hedge fund Elliott Management took control of Milan last year after the club's former Chinese owner missed a deadline to repay part of a loan worth more than 300 million euros.
While noting that it "inherited substantial accumulated losses" from the previous ownership, Milan said in a statement that the Europa League withdrawal "will act as a stimulus to maximize the efforts to become fully compliant with FFP, while at the same time consolidating the competitiveness of the club, and returning AC Milan to sustainability and a more positive future."
Milan could have expected at least 15 million euros ($17 million) from UEFA just for entering the Europa League, and close to 50 million euros ($57 million) for winning it.
By withdrawing, it increases the likelihood that Milan will have to sell some of its top players to balance its books ahead of an anticipated return to Europe in 2020-21. There are already reports that 20-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma could be sold to Paris Saint-Germain for 50 million euros ($57 million).
The agreement also reflects an improved relationship with Milan forged by Ivan Gazidis, the club's new CEO, who had to forfeit his seat on the UEFA executive committee to make the move from Arsenal to Milan at the end of last year.
Milan finished fifth in Serie A last month, missing out on the Champions League places by one point.
While UEFA made no immediate announcement, the move should open the way for Roma to enter the group phase of the Europa League.
Roma, which finished sixth in Serie A, had been slated to play Europa League qualifying beginning in late July.
Torino, which finished seventh, takes Roma's spot in the qualifying rounds.
Milan failed to advance from the group stage of the Europa League last season after having fought and won at CAS to overcome a UEFA ban on entering.