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AC Milan facing new punishment for breaching finance rules

AC Milan v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: First Leg

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 08: A general view of the stadium prior to UEFA Europa League Round of 16 match between AC Milan and Arsenal at the San Siro on March 8, 2018 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

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GENEVA (AP) AC Milan is facing another round of UEFA punishment for breaking financial fair play rules.

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UEFA said Wednesday its independent club finance investigators have sent Milan’s current file to a panel of judges.

"(Milan) has failed to comply with the break-even requirement during the current monitoring period assessed in the 2018-19 season,” UEFA said in a statement.

Although Milan is a seven-time European champion, its finances have taken a hit during a five-year failure to qualify for the Champions League.

The latest case is separate from the club finance panel’s judgment in December that fined Milan $13.5 million of Europa League prize money and threatened a one-season ban from European competition.

That ban could take effect in either the 2022-23 or 2023-24 season if the club fails to break even on soccer-related business in June 2021.

The previous case, which included Milan winning a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling to overturn a ban from this season’s Europa League, covered a three-year assessment of Milan’s finances up to 2017.

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The latest prosecution covers the next rolling three-year assessment, through 2018. It seems unlikely to ban Milan from UEFA competitions ahead of the 2021 target for compliance.

Milan is currently fourth in Serie A, ahead of Atalanta on head-to-head records, and is on track to qualify for the next Champions League. That would earn Milan more than $56 million in prize money.

UEFA’s financial fair play rules require clubs to approach break-even on their business, excluding investments such as stadium building and youth training.

The project launched - with support from then-Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi - after the global financial downturn a decade ago, and aims to force clubs to live within their revenue-earning means. Critics say it favors established clubs and penalizes emerging rivals with ambitious and wealthy owners.

UEFA’s club finance panel assesses the accounts of all clubs which qualify to play in the Champions League and Europa League. Milan failed to advance to either competition for three years until finishing sixth in Serie A in the 2016-17 season.

Boosted by new owners from China, Milan then spent nearly $250 million on player transfers in the offseason, including defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus and forward Andre Silva from Porto.

The spree defied questions over the ownership consortium that paid $800 million to buy the club from Berlusconi in April 2017.

American hedge fund Elliott Management took control of Milan last June after the former owner missed a deadline to repay part of a loan worth more than $350 million. Elliott repossessed the holding company in Luxembourg used to buy Milan.

Elliott’s business plan for the club persuaded a CAS judging panel that UEFA was too strict in imposing an immediate one-season ban from the Europa League.

UEFA said Wednesday that Milan has appealed again to CAS to challenge the punishment announced in December. That sanction includes limiting Milan’s squad to 21 senior players instead of 25 for the next two seasons of European competitions.

UEFA gave no timetable for a verdict in the club’s latest breach of financial fair play rules.