Manchester United in crunch talks over rule that could decide Champions League fate

Ineos have had constructive dialogue with Uefa as they bid to ensure that both Manchester United and OGC Nice are allowed to play European football next season.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe vowed on Wednesday that he was “crystal clear” that: “There’s no circumstances upon which an ownership of Nice would prevent Manchester United from playing in the Champions League.”

However, Uefa’s current rules on multi-club ownership means “no individual or legal entity” is permitted “control or influence” over more than one club which is in continental competition.

Ratcliffe is the majority shareholder in Nice and has taken a 27.7 per cent stake in United, which will rise to 29 percent, as well as control of footballing operations, in a deal which was ratified on Tuesday.

Ineos have been proactive in talking with European football’s governing body, while Uefa are currently reviewing their own rules about multi-club ownership.

United are sixth in the Premier League and, depending on England’s Uefa coefficient, fifth place may bring a Champions League spot.

Nice are currently third in Ligue 1 and France is guaranteed to have four clubs in next season’s Champions League.

Uefa’s current rules state that, if two or more clubs with the same ownership qualify, only the one with the higher finish in their domestic championship will be allowed to play in Europe.

If two clubs qualify for different European competitions, the club in the more prestigious one – the Champions League – would be permitted to enter.

Ratcliffe highlighted this week that the City Football Group could face a similar issue with Manchester City and Girona both occupying second place in their respective domestic leagues.

RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg, both Red Bull clubs, have been allowed to both play in Europe since Uefa determined in 2017 that no individual had a “decisive influence” at both. The German and Austrian clubs have since faced each other in the Europa League.

Ratcliffe hinted on Wednesday that Nice could be restructured with new directors when, referring to Uefa’s rules, he said: “It says you have to change the ownership structure. So it’s all about influence and positions on the board and that sort of thing.”

Ineos bought Nice in 2019. They have qualified for Europe twice since then, but, while Nice reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup in 1957 and 1960, they have never played in the Champions League group stages.