UEFA should rethink its rules that prevent clubs with related ownership from playing in the same competition, such as the Champions League, its president, Aleksander Ceferin, said on Wednesday.
Ceferin, speaking in an interview with former Manchester United player Gary Neville, said UEFA “wasn’t just thinking of United” when considering a review.
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United’s owners, the Glazer family, have requested offers to buy the storied club and a bid financed by Qatar and British industrialist Jim Ratcliffe have declared interest.
A Qatari sovereign wealth fund already owns Champions League Paris Saint-Germain and Ratcliffe chemical firm INEOS owns Nice, which regularly plays in UEFA’s lower-tier competitions.
Both potential buyers could take issue with UEFA’s rule that prohibits clubs from playing in the same competitions in any season if the owners have “decisive influence” over them.
Ceferin told Neville in a filmed interview published on Wednesday that UEFA should act soon to rethink its rules.
“It has to be fast because, you know, everything has to happen fast in football,” said the UEFA president.
A panel of UEFA club finance experts accepted in 2017 that Red Bull’s ownership group had created enough of a separation between Leipzig and Salzburg to allow the two to enter the next Champions League together.
However, that ruling was met with some skepticism, and finding new flexibility in the rules that could ultimately benefit Qatar’s bid for United would be another example of PSG appearing to get favorable decisions at UEFA.
PSG have emerged from two UEFA financial monitoring investigations with less serious consequences than many expected, and club president Nasser al-Khelaifi escaped sanction in a disciplinary case last year. A referee was confronted after a match that had knocked PSG out of the Champions League.
Al-Khelaifi is a close ally of Ceferin in football politics as a member of the UEFA executive committee, as president of the European Club Association that helped stop the breakaway Super League project in 2021 and as head of one of the UEFA’s largest commercial clients. — Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports.
UEFA warned last month about the integrity risks posed by “multi-club ownership” — potential collusion on the pitch and in the transfer market — in its annual review of the European soccer industry.
UEFA investigators identified “more than 180 clubs worldwide” in a multi-club investment structure involving the careers of more than 6,500 players. They said it was a fivefold increase in a decade.
“There is more and more interest in this multi-club ownership and we shouldn’t just say no (to) the investments, and multi-club ownership,” Ceferin said. “But we have to see what kind of rules we set in that case, because the rules have to be strict.”
Ceferin said any decision by UEFA on relaxing the multi-club ownership rule would come to the executive committee he chairs. It includes Al-Khelaifi and UEFA treasurer David Gill, the former Man United chief executive who is still closely linked to the club.