Manchester United face relegation to Europa Conference League by Monday unless changes made

manchester united face relegation to europa conference league by monday unless changes made

Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos group own two clubs that have qualified for the Europa League - PA/Nick Potts

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos group have until Monday to satisfy Uefa that Manchester United and Nice should both be allowed to compete in the Europa League next season.

Ratcliffe owns a 27.7 per cent stake in United, where he has complete control of football operations, and is also the majority shareholder at Nice following his takeover of the French club in 2019.

Uefa’s multi-club ownership (MCO) rules bar any organisation or individual from having “decisive influence” over the running of more than one club in the same competition.

An independent panel is due to rule on the matter before the Europa League qualifying rounds begin in the middle of July.

If a solution is not found, United would be forced to drop into the Europa Conference League since they finished in a lower position in the Premier League (eighth) than fifth-placed Nice did in Ligue 1.

Nonetheless, Ineos – who are in direct talks with Uefa over the matter – said in a statement that they were “confident” that such a scenario would be avoided.

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

Uefa issued clubs with fresh guidance around their MCO rules and what constitutes “decisive influence” a fortnight ago.

Clubs have been told they “must prove that, as at June 3 2024, they comply with the rules aimed at ensuring the integrity of the competition, namely the multi-club ownership rule”.

The principal issues for Ineos centre around the extent of their sporting control at the two clubs.

Although Ratcliffe is only a minority shareholder at Old Trafford, he assumed full control of football operations at the club under the terms of his £1.3 billion deal with the Glazers in February, including the ability to hire and fire a manager, chief executive, sporting director and other key executives.

In their guidance to clubs on May 14, Sunil Gulati, chairman of Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) First Chamber, cited four factors that constitute what is termed “decisive influence through governance”.

These include “if a party has the ability to appoint or remove the club’s key executives or the first squad’s head coach”; and/or if they have “the ability to influence key executive decisions (such as player transfers, budget approval, key commercial contracts), or benefits from specific contractual or statutory privileged rights with respect to the club’s governance, through veto rights or other privileged rights”.

If one or more of the “indicators” are triggered, the CFCB considers that a party “has the capacity to exercise a decisive influence in the decision-making of a club”.

It was Ratcliffe and his Ineos team who oversaw the appointment of Omar Berrada as Richard Arnold’s replacement as United chief executive in January and the arrival of Jason Wilcox as technical director at Old Trafford last month.

Ineos could surrender direct involvement at Nice

They are now conducting an internal review to determine whether to stick by Erik ten Hag or sack their FA Cup winning manager and are also behind moves to appoint Dan Ashworth as sporting director. Ineos have exerted similar control at Nice since buying the club almost five years ago.

Telegraph Sport reported in February how Ineos could surrender direct involvement at Nice in order to satisfy Uefa’s MCO rules.

Sources indicated that Ineos could look to structure Nice so as to remove any “day-to-day control” and leave the Ligue 1 club as a “stand-alone” entity with Ratcliffe remaining as the major investor in the background.

Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion were among several teams cleared to play in Europe this season gone after their owners were ordered to make changes to their ties with Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes and Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise respectively.

Manchester City and Spanish club Girona – who both operate under the City Football Group umbrella – will have to address similar issues to Ineos before Monday since the two clubs have qualified for next season’s Champions League.

Gulati said that, in instances where “compliance with the MCO rule may necessitate the sale of shares in a club”, certain accommodations would be permitted given the “short timeframe” between approval of the latest competition rules on March 20 and Monday’s deadline to comply.

Gulati said: “Such alternative shall consist in the transfer or the assignment of all its shares in a club to an independent third party, such as a blind trust, whereby all the decision-making of the club will solely rest under the control of the third party/trustee who will be bound by the fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the club exclusively.”

He added: “It is understood that, in such cases, the CFCB First Chamber will oversee the set-up of the independent structure to ensure it satisfies the MCO rule.”

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