Can Girona FC Join Co-owned Man City in the Champions League?

Can Girona FC Join Co-owned Man City in the Champions League?

Girona FC’s remarkable and unexpected performances in La Liga this season have raised a question that was unthought of at the start of this season

With the Spanish minnows likely to qualify for Europe’s premier tournament, the UEFA Champions League, the question surrounding Blanquivermells’ legitimacy to play in the competition is in question.

Through no fault of its own, the surprise La Liga leader has raised a question surrounding a UEFA restriction on clubs with the same owners being able to compete in the tournament. Girona FC is part-owned by City Football Group (CFG), the same entity that owns the reigning Champions League champions, England’s Man City.

Due to CFG’s dual ownership of the two clubs, doubt has risen over Girona’s Champions League participation, with The Citizens as the current champions already having qualified.

Why the Question Has Arisen

Girona FC is based in the Catalan city of its name, 99 km northeast of Barcelona, and is only competing in La Liga for the fourth season in its 93-year history. In August 2017, as Girona was entering its debut La Liga season, CFG acquired a 44.3% stake in the football club, a percentage that has since increased to 47%.

Girona Football Group (GFG), led by Pere Guardiola, Man City manager Pep Guardiola’s brother, holds another 44.3% stake in Girona FC. As Man City is CFG-owned, this family connection provides another tenuous link between the clubs.

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After two seasons in the top flight, Girona was relegated in 2018/19 before gaining promotion back to La Liga three seasons later. Ex-Spanish midfielder Míchel masterminded the promotion as manager and cemented Girona in the top tier with a 10th-place finish last season. Nobody predicted what would happen in 2023/24.

With the help of midfielder Yangel Herrera, signed from Man City in the preseason, and Man City loanee Yan Couto at right-back, Blanquivermells has taken on all-comers in La Liga this season. Girona FC topped the league table earlier this season, a point clear of Real Madrid at one point. However, they have since fell to third place and are currently ten points behind, with many of the top sites in India for sports betting giving Madrid 1/50 odds for the title, while Girona have fallen to 250/1 long shots.

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Perennial top-two finishers Barcelona are between the two in bookmakers’ lists of favorites, at 20/1. These odds indicate that Girona’s chance of UEFA Champions League qualification, granted to the top four La Liga finishers, is probable, meaning its eligibility for the competition is highly relevant.

Will Girona Be Eligible?

All signs point to UEFA ruling that the Catalan club will be allowed to participate in the Champions League in 2024/25. At the end of the previous campaign, after narrowly missing a qualification position in the UEFA Europa Conference League, Girona was granted a licence to take part in European club competitions by UEFA, but the governing body likely didn’t expect the club to qualify for the Champions League.

When both Red Bull-owned clubs, Leipzig and Salzburg, qualified for the Champions League in 2017/18, questions were raised about their legitimacy. In this case, both clubs were 100% owned by Red Bull, and UEFA deemed no rules broken, as each club’s operational structures were sufficiently separate.

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With CFG maintaining less than a 50% interest in Girona FC, which should not be a contention point for UEFA, the likelihood that any resistance to Girona’s participation in Europe’s premier competition is minimal, and we should see Blanquivermells joining the likes of Man City, Real Madrid and the other elite clubs in the draw for next season.

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