Girona and Manchester City are both aiming for European competitions this year, but it is not certain that they will fit there together. Source: Girona FC’s official Facebook / Facebook @gironafc
Girona and Manchester City are both aiming for European competitions this year, but it is not certain that they will fit there together. Source: Girona FC’s official Facebook / Facebook @gironafc

Will the small Spanish club prove fatal for Manchester City?

Football OlyBet 25.02.2024

There is no better Cinderella story in European football this year than Girona, who holds second place in the Spanish Premier League after 25 rounds. Peculiarly, what happens to Manchester City next season also depends on the future of the small Catalan club.

To tell this story, we must first turn the clock back to 2017, when Girona were promoted to the Spanish LaLiga for the first time in the club’s history. Because in parallel with the promotion, the team also moved under the City Football Group (CFG).

CFG is the football investment manager of Manchester City’s owners and owns a total of 14 clubs around the world: City itself among them. In 2017, led by Pep Guardiola’s brother Pere, the group was able to increase its presence in Spain and bought a 44.3% stake in Girona, which has now increased to 47%.

At the time of the purchase, CFG announced that Girona would henceforth become part of the group’s extensive network: in terms of infrastructure, training, recruitment, marketing and the like.

The rise needed time

Although it sounded fancy, Girona did not become the next money ship. They finished the debut season in La Liga in an impressive 10th place, but the following year they were quickly relegated. They then had to spend as many as three seasons in the Segunda División before being promoted back to La Liga last year and finishing 10th again.

However, this year they seem to have blossomed, which is also indicated by the 2nd place in La Liga. If Girona manages to hold on to this position and also qualify for the Champions League in their fourth season in the Spanish top flight, it would undoubtedly be a success for CFG, as none of City’s affiliates have previously qualified for Europe.

But on the other side of the same coin lurks a problem that, in a bad turn of events, could prove fatal for City itself.

It is about ownership

Namely, UEFA rules stipulate that clubs belonging to the same (majority) owner may not face each other. This is understandably not a problem for City and Girona in England and Spain, but it is in the Euroseries.

This rule, Article 5, was largely inspired by what happened in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1997/98 season, when the clubs AEK Athens (Greece), Vincenza (Italy) and Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) owned by the British investment company ENIC – now the major owner of Tottenham Hotspur – made up almost half of the quarter-finalists.

After that incident, it was written into the rules that one individual or company cannot “own or control” more than one club in one competition series. If until now the wording “own or control” has been interpreted mainly in terms of a majority stake, in the case of Girona, sitting on 47% will not save CFG. Or maybe because they are still the major shareholders, whose vote outweighs the small shareholders, led by Guatemalan entrepreneur Marcelo Claure (35%).

One can stay behind the door of the Euroseries

So it is fairly sure that UEFA officials will thoroughly examine the connection between Girona and City, should both still qualify for the Champions League. If they find that the problem does not exist, both can of course play in the Euroseries.

But what if the problem exists? Then the fun begins!

Namely, the UEFA rules stipulate that in such a case one of the related companies will simply remain behind the door at the Euroseries. Which one? Well, that depends on the results – the place is reserved for the one who finished in the highest position in their league.

In other words, if City wins the league and Girona finishes second, the English will get the place. And when City loses to Liverpool in the title race and also finishes second, the advantage is given to the higher league in the odds table (currently the Premier League).

And that one could also be City

However, if Girona comes second and City falls short of both Liverpool and Arsenal in the race for the Premier League title…

… then City would de facto miss out on a place at the Euroseries.

One can bet on it though, that in this case, the British, with the help of lawyers, would start figuring out tricks to somehow reduce the share percentage or sell the club outright. But given that City already have a conflict with UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, it’s not at all certain that they would be willing/able to start another legal dance.

For the sake of truth. If either City or Girona were to lose their place, it would simply go to the first team in their home country: sixth in the Premier League or fifth in La Liga (remember that the Champions League will expand to 36 teams next year).

Precedents can be found

Although it is difficult to predict the future – we don’t have a crystal ball – the most likely scenario is that City, or CFG, will be forced to simply make adjustments in Girona’s power structure and give up the management of the club.

This is exactly what Red Bull had to do in the 2017/18 season, whose football clubs Leipzig and Salzburg both played in the Champions League. At the time, UEFA investigated the matter very, very thoroughly and finally concluded that after certain adjustments they could still issue Euro licenses and Article 5 was not violated.

This is exactly how the investment companies V Sport and USG operated last year, whose owned clubs – Aston Villa (England) and Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal) regarding V Sport, Brighton Howe & Albion (England) and Union Saint-Gilloise (Belgium) in the case of USG – met respectively in the European and Conference Leagues.

Finally, it is worth noting that restrictions, sales or forced sales of any kind will not affect the transfer of the 19-year-old winger Savio to Manchester City. This is because the Brazilian, who scored five goals and seven assists in La Liga this year, actually belongs to another CFG club, Troyes, and is simply on loan in Girona.

In conclusion: a little bit about CFG

The investment company City Football Group (CFG), which manages Manchester City’s owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s football network, was established in 2014, and in addition to Sheikh Mansour, the technology company Silver Lake also owns a stake in it (18.16%).

Clubs included in the CFG portfolio:

  • Manchester City (England, 100% ownership)
  • New York City FC (USA, 80% stake)
  • Melbourne City FC (Australia, 100% ownership)
  • Yokohama F. Marinos FC (Japan, 20% stake)
  • Montevideo City Torque (Uruguay, 100% ownership)
  • Girona (Spain, 47% stake)
  • Sichuan Jiuniu FC (China, 28% stake)
  • Mumbai City FC (India, 65% stake)
  • Lommel SK (Belgium, 100% ownership)
  • ES Troyes AS (France, 100% ownership)
  • Club Bolivar (Bolivia, partner club)
  • Vannes OC (France, partner club)
  • Palermo FC (Italy, 80% stake)
  • Bahia (Brazil, 90% stake)


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