Football – The trend towards multi-ownership of clubs continues

On 22 June, the takeover of Racing Club de Strasbourg, the possibility of which we raised in our previous newsletter, became a reality with the announcement of an agreement between the club’s chairman, Marc Keller, and the company BlueCo, under which BlueCo undertook to buy almost all the shares held by Mr Keller.

BlueCo is a consortium of American investors, which includes the Clearlake investment fund, Todd Boehly, Mark Walter and Hansjörg Wyss, and which already owns the London club Chelsea, since May 2022.

The agreement provides for an “acceleration of sustainable investment in the club’s growth”, notably in the men’s and women’s first teams and in the training centre, and to “give Racing access to extensive resources and opportunities for collaboration” with the other clubs owned by BlueCo.

On the same day, the operation was submitted for validation to the Management Control National Directorate (Direction Nationale du Contrôle de Gestion, DNCG), whose assessment is expected in the coming weeks.

This purchase will enable the club to improve its financial capacity and allow it to be more active in the transfer market. This has already resulted in the arrival of Patrick Vieira as coach of the men’s first team, which should be accompanied by the purchase of new players this summer.

Strasbourg becomes the 5th club in League 1 to have been bought by American investors, after Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Le Havre. More than half the clubs in this league are now controlled by foreign shareholders.

This acquisition confirms the growth of the new model of multi-club ownership (MCO), which until now had been prohibited by UEFA regulations.

However, as we wrote in our previous newsletter, the UEFA seems to want to relax this rule considerably and is tolerating more and more cases of multiple ownership.

This trend was confirmed on 7 July by the decision of the UEFA’s financial control of clubs board, to allow Toulouse Football Club to play in the Europa League next year, despite the fact that it is owned by an entity (RedBird Capital) that controls another club that will play in the European Cup (AC Milan).

The Chamber took note of the recent decision by several members of the American fund to resign from the board of directors of the Toulouse club and considered that there were no longer any links in the decision-making chains of the two clubs, and that sufficient financial arrangements had been made to guarantee the independence of each club. However, it called on the two clubs not to sell or loan players to each other during the coming season and to ensure the independence of their recruitment teams.

The UEFA also ruled favourably in relation to four other European clubs: English clubs Aston Villa and Brighton, Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes and Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise.

Although it is still regulated and subject to the independence of the clubs’ decision-making bodies, multi-club ownership seems to become the new norm in professional football.