Spanish soccer team Malaga faces UEFA action over unpaid player wages

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

GENEVA (AP) — Champions League contender Malaga is facing UEFA sanctions for failing to pay millions of euros (dollars) of players' wages on time, and will likely have some prize money withheld. 

UEFA said Friday that investigators from its Club Financial Control Body have referred Malaga and eight other clubs to the panel's judging chamber. 

Malaga, which is owned by Qatari investor Sheik Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani, has reportedly failed to pay players a combined €9 million ($11.6 million). 

Club officials declined official to comment to The Associated Press on Friday. 

"The club has offered sufficient guarantees for us to be calm and we don't want to continue talking about financial questions," Malaga midfielder Sergio "Duda" Barbosa said Friday. 

The Spanish club has qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League from a group including seven-time winner AC Milan and is due at least €25 million ($32 million) in prize money, bonuses and a share of Spanish television revenues from UEFA. 

UEFA said the judging panel will examine nine clubs which played in this season's Champions League and Europa League whose prize money has been frozen because of unpaid players' wages, transfer fees or social taxes. 

Sixteen clubs have been cleared by UEFA — including defending Europa League champion Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon and Fenerbahce — and will now receive their prize money. 

Investigators "adjudged that the necessary financial requirements had been implemented" by a Sept. 30 deadline, UEFA said in a statement. 

UEFA published a list of 23 clubs under investigation in September who owed a combined €30 million ($38.4 million) in so-called "overdue payables." 

Clubs must pay their football and tax debts as a condition of getting a license from their national association to play in UEFA competitions. 

Malaga was the highest profile case and the only one of 32 group stage clubs in the Champions League implicated. 

In its debut season in world football's most prestigious club competition, Malaga has excelled against Milan, Anderlecht and Zenit St. Petersburg while seeming in turmoil off the field. 

The club spent €120 million (then $158 million) on the team last year and then switched strategy in the offseason by selling top players, including Spain playmaker Santi Cazorla to Arsenal. 

Malaga will be joined in the UEFA court, at an unspecified date, by eight Europa League entrants: Bucharest clubs Dinamo and Rapid, Serbian clubs Partizan and Vojvodina, Hajduk Split and Osijek of Croatia, plus Lech Poznan of Poland and Arsenal Kiev of Ukraine. The latter two have been added to the original list of 23 since September. 

UEFA has enforced a licensing system for almost a decade, but the rules and potential sanctions have gained a higher profile in the "Financial Fair Play" era. 

Since 2011, UEFA has been monitoring clubs' finances more closely and now requires them to aim toward breaking even on their football-related business as a condition of entry for the Champions League and Europa League. 

The two competitions have attracted total commercial revenue of almost €1.6 billion ($2.1 billion) for each season from 2012-15, with most shared among clubs playing in the group stages.


Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson in Barcelona contributed to this report.