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Team ownership rules complicate next move for soccer stars

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For football’s new breed of super-rich investors — risk-friendly billionaires, American hedge funds, wealthy Gulf states — the appeal of the new team ownership model lies in its simple strategy.

By involving not just one team, but multiple squads and hundreds of players Extensive multi-club networkthese wealthy new bosses believed they could succeed by leveraging efficiency, best practices, and volume.

Energy drink maker Red Bull has pioneered the model. Manchester City Football Club, the English champions funded by Emirati wealth, has adopted the City Football GroupJim Ratcliffe, chairman of chemicals giant Ineos, bought a majority stake in Manchester United last year and brought the concept to the club.

But one of the biggest attractions of multi-club ownership now faces a major challenge: European soccer’s governing body is changing the rules.

The problem, European soccer leaders say, is that matches between teams controlled by the same ownership group could undermine the fairness of Europe’s competitions and open the door to self-dealing in soccer’s $7 billion-a-year player trading market.

European soccer’s top administrator, Aleksander Ceferin, has tried to bridge that divide. In a podcast interview last year, he said the multi-club model represented a Danger to the sportalthough he told investors that the rules of this ownership There may be some relief under New UEFA Champions League format.

The current focus involves one of the most notable stories of the European football season that just ended: Spanish club Girona and its talented 20-year-old Brazilian striker Savio.

Girona finished third in the Spanish league last season, its fourth season in the Spanish top flight, a finish that earned it a spot in next season’s Champions League, Europe’s richest club competition, and attracted attention from some of the continent’s biggest clubs for Girona’s top players.

Manchester City had the upper hand in signing Savio. The owner of City is the brother of the Emirati sheikh and the largest single owner of Girona. Therefore, it seemed like there was no doubt that Girona’s rising star would go to the next destination. The news was almost confirmed in February when Fabrizio Romano, a social media influencer who specializes in reporting news on player transactions, announced that the deal was done.

“Manchester City have signed all the documents to sign Savio from July 1.” He said in a message to his more than 20 million followers on X Start with the red alert emoji.

But Savio is not actually owned by Girona. The player is on loan from French club Troyes, which is also City Football Group.

Over the past five years, this type of multiple holdings has become commonplace in world football: more than 180 teams around the world, employing more than 6,500 players, are now part of multi-club networks, according to UEFA, Europe’s governing body.

This poses a problem for UEFA. In the past, UEFA has focused on how team ownership affects its competitions, ruling that a single owner Cannot control multiple teams In the same incident.

But with the rise of multi-club control and complaints from critics about the fairness of Europe’s big tournaments – not to mention concerns that historic, proud clubs were being reduced to mere feeder teams – UEFA introduced Temporary rule changes.

Under the revised rules, if a club owner reduces his stake in a club to below 30%, both teams will be allowed to participate in UEFA competitions, provided that the two teams ensure independent operation, no common board members and other direct commercial or sporting relations.

These rules will only grant One season gives owners more time Divestiture of shares in competing clubs Below the threshold required by UEFA.

The American owners of AC Milan and French side Toulouse made such an arrangement last season, prompting reports in November that Redbird, which controls both teams, was seeking a buyer for Toulouse.

However, the revised rules on player movement will be stricter. If a club is involved in a multi-club ownership arrangement, it will be prohibited from loaning or trading any players between its teams, provided those teams compete in the same competition. (This rule also applies to AC Milan and several other teams Last season. )

This means that if both Manchester City and Girona play in the Champions League next season, Savio’s plans to join Premier League champions Manchester City will have to be shelved. He can still play, but he is unlikely to do so in a sky blue Manchester City shirt.

(The same problem could affect the transfer of Jean-Clair Todibo, a defender at French club Nice, which is owned by Ratcliffe. Manchester UnitedBoth Manchester United and Nice have qualified for next season’s other UEFA competition, the Europa League. Ratcliffe’s company INEOS said in a statement: “We are aware of UEFA’s regulations, adding that our goal is for both clubs to participate in the Europa League. We are now awaiting UEFA’s decision.”)

City Football Group said it had been in contact with UEFA officials for months in the hope of finding a way for Manchester City and Girona to qualify for the Champions League. All clubs must submit final documentation by Monday.

UEFA declined to comment on the proposed deal but a final decision on the teams’ eligibility is expected next month.

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