Discussions over potential changes to UEFA’s rules governing dual ownership are likely to accelerate if either Sheikh Jassim’s bid or Sir Jim Ratcliffe successfully buys Manchester United, Telegraph Sport understands.
Aleksander Ceferin, president of Europe’s soccer governing body, revealed this month that he was considering amending his regulations to allow clubs with the same ownership to play in the Champions League simultaneously. At present, such a scenario is prohibited.
The two main offers for United are from owners linked to clubs in Ligue 1, France’s top division.
Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group owns Nice, as well as Swiss club Lausanne-Sport. The offer by Sheikh Jassim, president of the Islamic Bank of Qatar and son of Qatar’s former prime minister, has raised concerns about links to Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain, despite insistence that he is financing the deal with his own private wealth.
Dual ownership is currently not on the agenda for the next UEFA executive committee meeting in Lisbon on April 4 or the UEFA congress the next day.
But club sources have indicated that it is likely to become a topic of serious discussion in the game’s power brokers if United is sold before the end of the season and the thorny issue comes under much greater scrutiny given the parties. who bid for the club.
If UEFA’s executive committee were to vote to implement changes to the existing rules for next season, they would have to happen before next season’s Champions League qualifying begins at the end of June.
Qualification for the Europa Conference League will begin in July and the following month for the Europa League. Various groups across Europe are believed to have been lobbying UEFA for a review of the current rules.
Ceferin said in an interview with Gary Neville for his YouTube channel The Overlap that UEFA “wasn’t just thinking about Manchester United” and that they have had “five or six club owners wanting to buy another club.”
UEFA will likely first consult with the European Club Association (ECA) before reaching a point where the executive committee meets to discuss the pros and cons of any changes. The president of the ECA is Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of PSG.
“The options are that it stays that way or we allow them to play in the same competition,” Ceferin told Neville. “I’m not sure yet.
“We have to talk about these regulations and see what to do about it. There is increasing interest in multi-club ownership. We shouldn’t just say no to multi-club ownership investments, but we have to see what kind of rules we set in that case, because the rules have to be strict.”
Sources close to Sheikh Jassim have rejected suggestions that his bid is indeed a state project ultimately funded by the Qatar Investment Authority, the Gulf nation’s sovereign wealth fund estimated to hold more than £370,000. million in assets and already helps support PSG through its subsidiary, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).
No details have yet been provided about the specific source or scale of Sheikh Jassim’s wealth, but sources close to his bid have expressed some surprise at the focus on Qatar given the multi-club ownership that exists across Europe.
That includes Ratcliffe, whose Nice team is currently seventh in Ligue 1. Lausanne-Sport is third in the Swiss Challenge League, the country’s second tier. Another Briton, Tony Bloom, owns Brighton and Belgian club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, who could qualify for Europe next season.
Red Bull’s ownership group was able to convince a panel of UEFA club finance experts in 2017 that they had created enough of a separation between Leipzig and Salzburg to allow both to compete in the same European competition. The two clubs competed in the Champions League this season.
If Qatar owns Paris St-Germain, how can it buy Manchester United?
Although Sheikh Jassim is said to be financing his bid through private wealth, his close family ties to Qatar’s ruling elite have raised questions about the source of the funds. For years, his father had controlled the stock market strings at the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the £370bn fund that helps support Paris Saint-Germain through its subsidiary Qatar Sports Investment. (QSI).
However, its bidding group has repeatedly asserted that the club’s funding is independent of the QIA. Last week, aides told United they are confident they will not break rules that prohibit clubs with the same ownership from playing in the same competition.
Even if state funding were to be tested, UEFA president Alesander Ceferin might be willing to turn the other cheek. He said this month that Europe’s soccer governing body was considering a rule change that would allow clubs with the same ownership to play in the Champions League simultaneously.