Two months ago, City Football Group announced they had successfully acquired their 10th club, as part of the City Football Group portfolio, in ESTAC Troyes of Ligue 2 BKT.
In becoming the club’s majority shareholder, they were added to the ever-expanding list of clubs under CFG’s ownership. That list is made up of: Manchester City, New York City, Melbourne City, Yokohama F. Marinos, Montevideo City Torque, Girona, Sìchuān Jiǔniú, Mumbai City and Lommel.
Troyes are far from the most glamourous club in French football, but clubs of their size give CFG a project to work on and develop as they attempt to turn Troyes into an established Ligue 1 Uber Eats side.
Multiple ownership in football isn’t a novel concept.
The Pozzo family, owners of Watford, Udinese and, until a few years ago, Granada, have traded players between themselves for years, often for smaller fees than what would be expected. Leeds United in recent times, have established partnerships with Cultural Leonesa and the Aspire Academy, and much has been made about Chelsea’s links with Vitesse.
CFG have made good use of these affiliations in past seasons, with most noticeably Jack Harrison making the move across the Atlantic from New York City to Manchester City, as well as Aaron Mooy who joined the club from Melbourne City. Whilst Harrison still finds himself contracted to the Premier League side, on loan to Leeds United for a third consecutive season, Mooy was sold on to Huddersfield Town for £10m, having never played a single minute for the club, a prime example of how the CFG model can raise funds for any of its sides.
In the past few transfer windows, Manchester City have recruited aggressively, particularly when it comes to signing young players, with the intention to loan, develop and sell for profit.
Last summer Spanish right-back Pedro Porro was signed from Girona for a fee of £11m, only to be loaned out to Real Valladolid. Although this may seem unfair, cherry-picking a smaller club’s prized asset, to then send them elsewhere, City have paid back the favour this season by loaning the Segunda Division side three of their best young players in Arijanet Muric, Pablo Moreno and Yan Couto.
Both sides benefit from these deals, as Girona have made £11m from a player sale, as well as receiving players to help aid a promotion push for this season, whilst Manchester City will look to sell Porro for more money than they bought him for, in addition Muric, Moreno and Couto returning to the club in the summer, better more developed players.
A key foundation that CFG is built on, is the idea that all clubs under it’s umbrella play, ‘The City Way’. As part of this identity, it is required that all CFG clubs run their clubs in this manner.
A CFG spokesperson said that: “Identifiable cross-club brand via similar kits is the principle of the City Way, a concept whereby all teams which play under their banner, regardless of continent or competition, can be seen to play according to a prototype style based on passing, possession and attacking philosophy.”
These shared characteristics between the clubs makes them more appealing to sponsors and advertisers, as well as supporters of Manchester City across the globe.
Not everyone thinks the CFG ownership structure is a good idea, however.
Girona suffered relegation from La Liga two seasons ago, much to the anger the club’s supporters, with some accusing Man City’s insistence on their loan players starting most games the main reason for their downfall. Other critics believe that repeatedly adding clubs to their portfolio is a money laundering tactic, one that helps them to escape the wrath of FFP.
The most prominent criticism of CFG though, the idea that they will eventually end up with a monopoly on the football industry. If they were to eventually own a club in every single country, they would soon end up dominating most domestic leagues, making CFG clubs harder and harder to topple.
CFG will continue to become stakeholders in clubs across the globe, with South Africa, Malaysia and Russia rumoured to be targets for their next expansion. Whether or not more clubs will look to go down ownership path is yet to be seen, but CFG are the trailblazers and in the years to come, they will hope to reap the rewards.