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UEFA make decision over FSG and Liverpool £581 million partners ahead of possible rule change

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RedBird Capital Partners own both AC Milan and Toulouse who could meet in the Europa League.

Both AC Milan and Toulouse, two clubs owned by part Liverpool owners RedBird Capital Partners, have been granted permission to compete in European competition by UEFA.

AC Milan, purchased by RedBird in September last year in a £1.1bn deal, have qualified for the Champions League for this coming season but could find themselves dropping into the Europa League should they suffer an early exit, meaning the potential for a clash with French side Toulouse, owned by the New York firm since the summer of 2020, could be on the cards.

That possibility posed the risk of breaching UEFA’s rules around teams being unable to meet in the same competition if they were under the same ownership group. With Aston Villa’s owners also holding control in Portuguese side and Europa League qualifiers Vitoria Guimaraes, and Brighton & Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom holding ownership of both the Seagulls and Belgian side Union Saint Gilloise, both of whom qualified for the Europa League for this season, UEFA had to rule on several similar matters.

Operational changes were made across the clubs, with RedBird founder and managing partner Gerry Cardinale, along with other RedBird staff, stepping down from the board at Toulouse, while Villa’s owners reduced their stake in Vitoria to comply. Union Saint Gilloise also made operational changes, with all clubs scrutinized banned from selling or loaning players between the linked clubs until the end of next summer’s transfer window.

The ruling to allow the clubs to participate after changes were made points to a potential change in stance around multi-club ownership that is brewing at UEFA. With a growing number of clubs now under the same ownership umbrella via the increasingly popular multi-club model, of which Manchester City owners City Football Group are the most prominent with 13 clubs globally, European football’s governing body is considering relaxing some of the rules around clubs owned by the same entity or individual moving forward, given the increasing prevalence.

UEFA drafted rules on multi-club ownership 25 years ago to protect the integrity of its competitions when the teams could be drawn to play each other during the season. UEFA-appointed investigators evaluated three cases in recent weeks.

Investigators noted the “significant changes by the clubs and their related investors” to comply with the rules that “substantially restrict the investors’ influence and decision-making power over more than one club.”

“The clubs will not transfer players to each other, whether permanently or on loan, directly or indirectly, until September 2024,” UEFA said in a statement, with the move preventing the kind of loan move that took Brighton’s Japanese forward Kaoru Mitoma to Union for the 2021/22 campaign.

UEFA also ruled that “the clubs will not enter into any kind of cooperation, joint technical or commercial agreements. The clubs will not use any joint scouting or player database.”

Liverpool are potential opponent of both Toulouse and AC Milan in the Europa League this coming season, although the relationship between the Reds and RedBird is not something that came under scrutiny by UEFA.

RedBird acquired 11 percent of Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group in March 2021 in a $750m (£581m) deal. But given that RedBird has no board representation with Liverpool, whose value makes up just shy of half of FSG’s $10bn-plus empire, and that their investment into FSG is indirect, no conflict of interest exists in the eyes of UEFA that would cause concern.

RedBird wwaserroneouslwas erroneouslyaking a potential investment play in Liverpool, searching for outside capital at present, earlier this year. The ECHO understands that they are not part of any process with regards to Liverpool’s search for investment and that position has not changed.

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