Girona’s shock La Liga success story poses Manchester City a Champions League problem

Girona's Valery Fernandez and Cristhian Stuani   embrace

Manchester City could be forced to cut some of their ties with Girona, the shock Liga leaders, if both clubs qualify for Europe.

The Catalan club’s 4-2 victory over Barcelona on Sunday continued a fairy-tale season in which they have gatecrashed Spain’s traditional title race and are threatening to secure a spot in the Champions League.

City and Girona are both part of City Football Group (CFG), meaning they must comply with Uefa’s rules on multi-club ownership before being allowed to play together in Europe.

The governing body is currently considering relaxing those rules but the existing ones state: “No club, either directly or indirectly, holds or deals in securities or shares of any other club participating in a Uefa club competition; no club is a member of any other club participating in a Uefa club competition; no one has any power whatsoever or is simultaneously involved, directly or indirectly, in any capacity whatsoever in the management, administration and/or sporting performance of more than one club participating in a Uefa club competition; and no one has control or decisive influence over more than one club in a Uefa club competition.”

CFG, whose majority owner is Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has been the most successful of all football’s multi-club ownership models.

As well as wholly owning City themselves, it is the largest single shareholder in Girona with a 47 per cent stake.

As the latter falls below majority ownership, this in itself should not fall foul of existing Uefa rules.

However, there are ties between the two clubs that will need to be severed for them to comply with the regulations, primarily in their respective boardrooms.

According to both teams’ official websites, John MacBeath is currently a director of City and Girona.

MacBeath, a chartered accountant who served as interim City chief executive between September 2011 and September 2012, would be forced to step down from one of those roles if the two clubs are to play together in Europe.

CFG’s general counsel Simon Cliff is also on the Girona board and he, too, may need to relinquish the latter position for rules to be complied with.

One Girona director unaffected by all this, ironically, would be club president Pere Guardiola, despite him being the brother of City manager Pep.

Pep, Marius and Pere Guardiola
Pep Guardiola's brother Pere, right, is Girona's president - MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

The other restriction that may be placed on City and Girona while they are both playing together in Europe is a ban on them transferring players to each other during that time.

Manchester United could be subject to similar restrictions to their neighbours if Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos, which owns high-flying French club Nice, completes the purchase of a 25 per cent stake in the Old Trafford side.

If City and United were not to comply with the rules, they would face being refused entry to European competition, with the regulations stipulating the team from a multi-club group that finishes highest in their domestic league would otherwise be the one admitted.

The Manchester rivals would not be the first sides to test Uefa’s rules on multi-club ownership.

Six years ago, it cleared RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg to play in the Champions League after ruling Red Bull did not have a “decisive influence” over the German club.

Fears of collusion between the two clubs proved unfounded the following year when they were drawn in the same Europa League group and failed to produce a draw that would have seen both qualify.

This summer both Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion were cleared to play in Europe this season alongside two clubs, Vitoria Sport Clube and Royal Union Saint-Gilloise, with which they respectively have links.

The president of Uefa, Aleksander Ceferin, revealed earlier this year it was considering relaxing its rules on multi-club ownership.

If that happens clubs with the same majority owners and directors could allowed into the same competition but potentially kept apart until the knockout stages to avoid  any risk of collusion.

That is despite Uefa refusing to do just that when it came to England being drawn in the same group as Scotland for the Women’s Nations League, which acted as a qualifier for next summer’s Olympics.

The decision left Scottish players in the invidious position last week of knowing that beating their rivals would deprive them of the chance to play for Great Britain at the Games.

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