Football – The potential takeover of Racing Club de Strasbourg by Chelsea’s owner’s – a symbol of future relaxation of UEFA’s multiple ownership rules ?

On 2 March 2023, the president of Racing Club de Strasbourg, Marc Keller, confirmed that he had met with Todd Boehly, an American investor and co-owner of Chelsea, as part of a discussion to buy all or part of the Alsatian club. The British newspaper The Guardian reports that those discussions later intensified.

Such a takeover would be consistent with Todd Boehly’s desire to take control of other clubs with the aim of getting young, up-and-coming players to play there and train them to eventually join the flagship club in South London.

Chelsea’s chairman of affairs, Tom Glick, has reportedly been tasked with handling the takeover process, after failing to enter into talks with other French clubs such as Lyon, Bordeaux and Sochaux.

This operation would also be a solution to the financing needs of the Strasbourg club, which is currently in a disappointing 15ème place in Ligue 1 and is experiencing difficulties in renovating its Meinau stadium (delay of at least one year and additional costs of 20 million euros).

“In this ever-changing environment, in order to remain competitive or, better still, to progress, you will one day need to be accompanied,” commented Marc Keller. “I have never hidden the fact that for the past two years we have been looking for new partners to help us grow.

However, this takeover will not be possible without a relaxation of UEFA’s rules on timeshare.

Towards the end of UEFA’s ban on club ownership?

Article 5.01 of the UEFA Champions League Regulations currently states that:

“To ensure the integrity of UEFA club competitions, the following criteria apply: (…)

no natural or legal person may have control or influence over more than one club participating in UEFA club competitions, such control or influence being defined in this context as:

  • the holding of a majority of the shareholders’ voting rights,
  • the right to appoint or dismiss the majority of the members of the administrative, management or supervisory body,
  • being a shareholder and controlling alone, by virtue of an agreement with other shareholders in the club, a majority of the shareholders’ voting rights, or
  • being in a position to exert, in any way, a decisive influence on the club’s decision making.

Thus, as the text stands, multiple ownership of clubs is prohibited by the UEFA and this notion is understood in a particularly broad sense.

So far, cases of multiple ownership have been quite rare and have not led to sanctions either because the clubs in question have never participated in the same UEFA competition (this is for instance the case of the City Football Group which, apart from Manchester City, only owns non-European clubs or small European clubs not qualified for UEFA competitions) or because the owner in question relinquished control of one of the two clubs it owned (this is for instance the case of the Red Bull Group, which controlled the clubs RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg until the 2017-2018 season).

But it seems that the trend is now moving towards an acceptance of timeshare by the UEFA.

Indeed, in February and March, Manchester United received two takeover offers: one from the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank, Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who is potentially linked to the Qatari fund that already owns Paris Saint Germain; and the other from British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who already owns OGC Nice via his INEOS group.

Asked about the possible takeover, the UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin raised the possibility of a relaxation of the timeshare ban: “We have to talk about these regulations and see what to do about them. There is more and more interest in timeshare. We should not just say no to investments for multiple club ownership, but see what kind of rules we set in this case, because the regulations have to be strict.”

Such a regulatory change would therefore greatly favour Todd Boehly’s takeover of Racing Club de Strasbourg.