UEFA Allows Manchester United to Compete in Europa League Despite Ownership Rules

Special Conditions Allow Both United and Nice to Play in Europe

UEFA has reportedly decided to let Manchester United play in the Europa League next season, despite their regulations on multi-club ownership. United and Nice, both owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company Ineos, have qualified for the competition.

Background on UEFA’s Ownership Rules

UEFA’s updated integrity laws, as reported by Mail Sport in March, state that if two clubs from the same ownership group qualify for the same competition, only one is allowed to enter. Typically, this would favor the team with the higher league finish. Nice finished 5th in Ligue 1, while Manchester United placed 8th in the Premier League. However, United’s FA Cup win secured their Europa League spot.

Special Allowance and Conditions

According to The Times, UEFA has granted Manchester United permission to compete alongside Nice in the Europa League next season, subject to specific conditions. This decision is considered a one-off. Nice will have to be managed via a ‘blind trust’ overseen by a UEFA-approved panel. This model was previously used for AC Milan, Toulouse, and their American investor Red Bird Capital.

Future Implications and Changes

UEFA has indicated that the 2024-25 season will be viewed as transitional, with stricter enforcement expected in the future. A document seen by The Times describes the blind trust as a “temporary alternative granted on an exceptional basis” for the upcoming season. Changes to multi-club ownership rules are anticipated in the coming years.

Similar Cases with Manchester City and Girona

This ruling also affects Manchester City and Girona, both of which will be allowed to compete in the Champions League. Girona, owned by City Football Group, finished third in LaLiga and could have been affected if UEFA enforced its original stance. Like Nice, Girona will also need to operate via a blind trust.

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Ineos’ Position and Future Plans

Ineos, which bought Nice in 2019 and acquired a 27.7% stake in Manchester United this season, plans further investment that will take its stake above the 30% threshold under UEFA rules. Sir Jim Ratcliffe also owns Swiss Super League side Lausanne, which has not qualified for European competition this season.

In a statement, Ineos said, “We are aware of the position of both clubs and are in direct dialogue with UEFA. We are confident we have a route forward for next season in Europe.”

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