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Manchester United risk Europa League ban

Manchester United’s participation in next season’s UEFA Europa League is under threat despite their recent FA Cup triumph over Manchester City.

The 2-1 victory at Wembley secured a spot for Erik ten Hag‘s side in the European tournament, however, United’s place is jeopardized due to UEFA’s multi-club ownership rules, which could see them banned from the competition.

UEFA prohibits two teams owned by the same organization from competing in the same tournament. Nice also qualified for the Europa League after finishing fifth in Ligue 1.

Manchester United and Nice share ownership under INEOS. Ratcliffe’s company fully owns Nice, while it holds a partial but influential stake in United.

Ratcliffe has to prove to UEFA before a deadline of June 3 that there is enough detachment between United and Nice; and that they are very separate clubs.

An independent panel will rule on the matter before the Europa League qualifying rounds begin in mid-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) compared to Nice’s fifth place in Ligue 1. However, INEOS remains optimistic about resolving the issue.

“We are aware of the position of both clubs and are in direct dialogue with UEFA,” INEOS stated.

“We are confident we have a route forward for next season in Europe.”
UEFA recently issued new guidance on their multi-club ownership rules, specifying what constitutes “decisive influence.”

Both clubs must prove compliance with these rules by June 3, 2024. The principal issues for INEOS involve the extent of their control over both clubs.

Unless Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS group address these regulations, Manchester United could be banned from competing despite their qualification.

Sources indicated that Ineos could look to structure Nice to remove any “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 after their owners were ordered to make changes to their ties with Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes and Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise respectively.

Also, Manchester City and Spanish club Girona – who both operate under the City Football Group umbrella will have to address similar issues to Ineos before July 3 since the two clubs have qualified for next season’s Champions League.