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Manchester City, Girona, and the Problem They Must Solve So Neither Misses Out on the Champions League

Manchester City, Girona, and the Problem They Must Solve So Neither Misses Out on the Champions League

Carlos Hurtado (Baker McKenzie), who believes that multi-ownership will become more common, explains to MARCA the deadlines and solutions to avoid potential exclusion from the next edition of the international tournament due to their shared ownership (City Football Group).

In recent times, especially from England, there has been attention drawn to UEFA regulations that could see Girona excluded from the next Champions League. The reason? They share ownership with Manchester City, the current champions of the competition. Before June 3, both clubs must find a solution to ensure they can participate without issue in the premier international competition.

“It’s a real possibility, as established by UEFA competition rules. Therefore, the answer is that it is indeed a real possibility for Girona not to play in the Champions League if the two clubs fail to take the necessary measures. It’s an option, but it seems that the clubs are already seeking alternatives to prevent this from happening,” explains Carlos Hurtado (Baker McKenzie) to MARCA.

The roadmap, as outlined by the subject matter expert, is clear and presents three options to resolve the issue: “UEFA does not specify the alternatives. Essentially, they would have three options. The first, the easiest, would be for one of the two clubs to reduce its ownership percentage. Considering the owners, it’s likely that this reduction would occur at Girona. The second option is to establish a corporate structure whereby the club, likely Girona, is managed by an independent panel overseen by UEFA, ensuring that decisions made within the club are not influenced by the City group. This seems to be gaining the most traction in recent weeks. Then, the third option would be for them not to compete in the same competition if things remain as they are.”

However, there are other nuances: “If we refer to UEFA rules, which establish a three-tier ranking prioritizing competition, we would move to the next level to check the positions of the teams (Girona would be lower), and if they are equal, we would reach a third level where there is a ranking of associations where England is also ahead.”

Precedents exist

Last year, UEFA dealt with a similar case involving AC Milan and Toulouse, which garnered some attention. There were also two other reasons, but UEFA concluded that the clubs had taken the necessary steps to compete. In this case, assuming nothing out of the ordinary occurs, the outcome should be the same.

“It depends. The important thing is the key date set by UEFA, which is June 3. Clubs have seen this coming for weeks. They work on it in advance. Therefore, it’s possible for Girona to reduce its ownership in one way or another. They have time, and I’m confident they’ve been working on it for several days. A solution should be reached before June 3. UEFA has very strict regulations. They take the integrity of their competition very seriously but are also flexible because they want to support the clubs. They want to help the clubs meet the requirements, but the clubs themselves must be the first to adapt,” adds Hurtado.

Athletic Bilbao would fill the gap

Should the impasse not be resolved, another LaLiga team would fill the vacancy left by the Catalans. “City would remain in the Champions League, and Girona would drop to the Europa League. The spot for the Spanish team would go to the next team on the list, in this case, Athletic Bilbao. However, it would be very surprising if Girona and City don’t resolve this in time,” notes the expert.

Although the Basque club faces significant challenges in this regard, a resolution will come one way or another: “There are two clearer options. One is a straightforward sale to an independent third party, such as another shareholder, which is usually the easiest. Another option is for a third party to enter, operating as a sale of the club because a new person would come in to make decisions. From what we’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like City would easily let go of Girona. So, the normal course would be to reduce ownership, withdraw from control bodies, and that’s it. Then they could return after handing over club management to an administrator making decisions for the club. It has even been reported in the press that UEFA would allow this administrator to be appointed by City, although they would always remain isolated from the group to prevent any influence between the two clubs that could benefit them.

Looking to the future

“UEFA has experienced different phases, from a stricter one where it seemed like they would regulate everything to a slightly more relaxed one. UEFA will regulate this. I don’t think the regulations will go into much detail. But it tells you what requirements must be met to avoid any perceived influence from one club to another, with several parameters. This regulation already provides clues or elements to know when you are in a risky area. I don’t see UEFA entering into an ultra-detailed regulation in the short term. They need to think about it because clubs, like all companies, are imaginative,” he points out.

He adds: “If UEFA drafts something, they can always leave a loophole. They will establish a basic regulation that they may adjust as they have been doing lately, but then they will leave some room for discretion in that communication between UEFA and the clubs. Here, the only worrying thing would be deadlines and dates, but because of what it means to play in UEFA for both clubs, everyone will do their utmost to arrive well prepared.” As a clear summary, Hurtado indicates that Girona will be “99% in the Champions League.”

Potential Scenarios in the Super League

This situation should also be considered in a potential Super League: “Initially, it was a closed format; now it’s unclear what it would be like exactly. Certainly, for the sake of transparency, there must be something to prevent this kind of thing. This doesn’t happen in any high-level competition. This situation doesn’t exist in any other competition worldwide. Therefore, for the integrity of the competition, this must be a topic that needs to be addressed.”

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