Ineos willing to reduce role at Nice to prioritise Man Utd – and meet Uefa rules

Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Nice
Sir Jim Ratcliffe's (centre) ownership of Nice raises a potential conflict of interest - Getty Images/Pascal Della Zuana

Ineos could surrender direct day-to-day involvement at Nice in order to remove the threat of Manchester United or the French club being unable to play European football under Uefa’s multi-club ownership rules.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s impending purchase of a 28.9 per cent stake in United raises a potential conflict of interest given that the Ineos founder is the majority shareholder at Nice, who are also chasing Champions League qualification.

Under Uefa rules, the same owner or entity are not permitted “decisive influence” in decision-making across two or more clubs.

With his controlling stake at Nice and Ratcliffe also about to take full control of football operations at Old Trafford, the Oldham-born billionaire risks breaching those regulations unless there are changes to the way the clubs are structured – or the rules themselves.

Ratcliffe is expected to hold talks with Uefa before the end of the season to fully establish what flexibility exists, not least as Aleksander Ceferin, the European governing body’s president, has stated publicly that the regulations require greater clarity.

But sources have indicated that Ineos could look to structure Nice so as to remove any “day-to-day control” and leave the Ligue 1 club as a “stand-alone” entity, with Ratcliffe remaining as the major investor in the background.

That is not so far removed from the situation that is now taking shape at Nice, where Jean-Pierre Rivere and Fabrice Bocquet serve as president and chief executive respectively, with Florent Ghisolfi as sporting director and Laurent Bessiere as director of performance.

Sir Dave Brailsford has taken an increasing backseat at Nice in recent times with the Ineos sporting director’s focus now centring on United, where he has played a key role in the appointment of Omar Berrada as chief executive and the pursuit of Newcastle’s sporting director Dan Ashworth.

Sir Dave Brailsford shakes hands with Rasmus Hojlund
Sir Dave Brailsford (centre) has taken a back seat at Nice to focus on Man Utd - Getty Images

Ceferin raised the prospect last year of Uefa abandoning its multi-club ownership rules altogether but his stance appears to have softened since. In an interview with Telegraph Sport last month, Ceferin said he wanted the rules to define clearly what constituted a “decisive influence” at more than one club and said the “biggest problem” around the issue of multi-club ownership was one of “perception”.

Aston Villa and Brighton and 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 other clubs in Europe.

Nice are currently third in Ligue 1 and in contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League. A run of four successive wins has significantly boosted United’s own hopes of qualifying for Europe’s premier club competition, with Erik ten Hag’s side five points adrift of fourth-placed Villa.

Under the existing rules, if United and Nice both finished in the Champions League places in their respective divisions then it would be the team who came higher of the two who would be awarded a European berth, with the other prohibited from competing.