By Associated Press
GENEVA: UEFA should rethink its rules that prevent clubs in related ownership from playing in the same competition such as the Champions League, its president Aleksander Čeferin said Wednesday.
Čeferin, speaking in an interview with former Manchester United player Gary Neville, said UEFA was “not thinking about United only” in considering a review.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, have invited offers to buy the storied club and a Qatari-funded bid and British industrialist Jim Ratcliffe have declared interest.
A Qatari sovereign wealth fund already owns Champions League regular Paris Saint-Germain and Ratcliffe’s chemicals firm INEOS owns Nice, which regularly plays in UEFA’s lower-tier competitions.
Both potential buyers could have problems with UEFA’s rule that bars clubs playing in the same competitions in any season if owners have “decisive influence” over them.
Čeferin, who has held one international press conference since September, told Neville in a filmed interview released Wednesday that UEFA should move soon to rethink its rules.
It has to be quick because, you know, everything has to happen quickly in football,” the UEFA president said.
A UEFA panel of club finance experts accepted in 2017 that the Red Bull ownership group had created enough separation between Leipzig and Salzburg to allow both to enter the next Champions League together.
That ruling was met with some skepticism, however, and finding new flexibility in the rules that could ultimately benefit the Qatari bid for United would be another example of PSG seeming to get favorable decisions at UEFA.
PSG has emerged from two UEFA financial monitoring investigations with less severe consequences than many expected, and club president Nasser al-Khelaifi escaped sanction in a disciplinary case last year. A referee was confronted after a game which had eliminated PSG from the Champions League.
Al-Khelaifi is a close ally of Čeferin in soccer politics as a member of UEFA’s executive committee, as the chairman of the European Club Association that helped stop the breakaway Super League project in 2021, and as the head of one of UEFA’s most important commercial clients — Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports.
UEFA warned last month of the integrity risks posed by “multi-club ownership” — potential collusion on the field and in the transfer market — in its annual review of the European soccer industry.
Researchers for UEFA identified “more than 180 clubs worldwide” in a multi-club investment structure involving the careers of more than 6,500 players. They said that was a five-fold increase within a decade.
“There is more and more interest for this multi-club ownership and we shouldn’t just say no (to) the investments, and for multi-club ownership,” Čeferin said. “But we have to see what kind of rules we set in that case, because the rules have to be strict.”
Čeferin said any UEFA decision 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 CEO at Man United who is still closely tied to the club.