Manchester United Bidder Sir Jim Ratcliffe May Have to Sell Nice Stake to Avoid Champions League Exclusion
Billionaire and Manchester United fan, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, could be at risk of breaching UEFA regulations if he successfully acquires the Glazer family’s 69% stake in the Premier League club. Ratcliffe, who has also invested in French club Nice and Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport, may be forced to sell his Nice stake to avoid such a breach. According to a source of ESPN’s, UEFA could exclude one of Ratcliffe’s teams from the Champions League as existing rules forbid two teams controlled by the same person or group from competing in the same competition.
Ratcliffe has submitted a bid to the New York-based Raine Group to acquire the shares, making him the owner of three clubs whose qualification for the same UEFA competition could be against the rules. UEFA President, Aleksander Ceferin, had earlier hinted at reviewing regulations around multi-club ownership. However, unless Ratcliffe and INEOS reduce their interest in Nice, they risk causing one of the teams to be excluded if both United and Nice qualified. They would have to pass Article 5.02 of UEFA regulations, which outlines the steps that would be taken if two clubs owned by the same person or group qualified for the same competition.
If both clubs finished in the Champions League qualification spots in their respective leagues, the club finishing higher would take the place in the competition. For instance, United would miss out if they finish fourth and Nice finishes in Ligue 1’s top three. Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who leads the Qatari bid to buy United, would also need to prove that he has no sway over PSG, which is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, should he become United’s owner.
To avoid such risks, Ratcliffe seems to have only two options: either dilute INEOS’s interest in Nice or forgo the acquisition of Manchester United. UEFA allowed Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig to participate in the same tournament after the clubs met the organization’s rules around multi-club ownership.
Though UEFA seems to favor a review of the regulations around multi-club ownership for the upcoming season, Sir Jim Ratcliffe might have to tread cautiously if he wants to avoid being penalized. If he wants to retain his association with Nice and own Manchester United, a change of rules looks like the only way forward.
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