The English Football League (EFL) would have no obligation to accept Manchester City in the extraordinary event the club were expelled from the Premier League over alleged breaches of financial rules, Telegraph Sport understands.
City have been accused of breaching 115 regulations spanning 14 seasons from 2009-10 to the current campaign following a four-year investigation by the Premier League.
An independent disciplinary commission will now hear the charges in private.
The Premier League champions said they welcomed the opportunity for the commission to "impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position" and were looking forward to the matter "being put to rest once and for all".
No timeframe for a hearing has been announced but, if they charges are proven, City could face a range of punishments, including points deductions, fines and the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the league.
City successfully overturned a two-year ban from European competition by Uefa on appeal in 2020 for alleged financial impropriety and are confident their name will also be cleared over alleged Premier League breaches.
But, in the extreme event the worst fears of City supporters were realised and the club was expelled from the Premier League, it is understood the EFL would not automatically have to accept them as they have no obligation to do so.
Since the EFL - which covers the Championship, League One and League Two - cannot have more than 72 clubs, it is also unclear how City would be accommodated in such a scenario without a change in regulations.
Expulsion and relegation are not the same thing - the Premier League's independent disciplinary commission have the power to expel a club but there is no provision in the rules for them to relegate one.
Sources suggested the situation points to "another gap in football governance" at a time when the Government will shortly publish a long-awaited white paper proposing reforms to shake up football.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said on January 26 that the paper - which is expected to propose the introduction of an independent football regulator in England - would be published in "two weeks' time" but it has now been delayed by a fortnight.
Insiders at City feel the timing of the Premier League's announcement outlining the charges was part of a strategy to show the organisation is capable of self-policing amid their resistance to the potential introduction of a regulator.