Written by 02:48 World

Sávio to Manchester City? UEFA Says Not So Fast

To soccer’s new generation of superrich investors — risk-friendly billionaires, American hedge funds, wealthy gulf states — the appeal of a new model for team ownership lay in its simple strategy.

By sweeping up not just a single team but multiple squads and hundreds of players into expansive multiclub networks, these rich new owners believed they could leverage efficiency, best practices and volume into success on the field.

Red Bull, the energy drink maker, pioneered the model. Manchester City, the English champion financed by the wealth of the United Arab Emirates, supersized it through its City Football Group. Jim Ratcliffe, the chairman of the chemicals giant INEOS, brought it to Manchester United when he acquired a major stake in the club last year.

But one of the biggest attractions of multiclub ownership has now run up against a significant challenge: European soccer’s governing body is changing the rules.

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

Aleksander Ceferin, European soccer’s top administrator, has tried to straddle the divide. In a podcast interview last year, he suggested that the multiclub model represented a danger to the sport, even as he courted investors by saying that the rules on such ownership might be eased under the Champions League’s new format.

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Last modified: 8 June 2024
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