Analysis: Every club part of City Football Group and how it works

Multi-club ownership has become a hot topic in the world of football, with more and more teams seemingly finding themselves under the same umbrella as others.

Perhaps the most wide-reaching and successful ownership project in football right now is the City Football Group, of which English giants Manchester City are the flagship side.

It’s a modern football invention that angers many supporters and leaves a sour taste in the mouth, while some see it as simply the future of an ever-evolving sport.

City Football Group are not the only multi-club project out there, but here’s all you need to know about what it is and the teams currently part of it.

  • What is City Football Group?

City Football Group (CFG) was established back in 2013 and has grown rapidly ever since. According to their official website, it is: “The owner of football-related businesses in major cities around the world, including football clubs, academies, technical support and marketing companies.”

They state their ambition is to: “Increase participation in football on and off the field, to find and develop the best footballing talent, and to deliver an exciting and forward playing game.”

The real beginnings of City Football Group can be traced back to Sheikh Mansour’s purchase of Man City back in 2008 via his Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment vehicle. City Football Group was then created in 2013 when they acquired New York City Football Club. Since 2021, via Newton Investment and Development, Mansour owns 81% of the group, with the US private equity company Silver Lake holding 18.16% (and China Media Capital and CITIC Capital the remainder). Mansour is still the majority owner of Man City.

The reason a setup like CFG concerns many in the sport, especially from a romantic standpoint, is that it dilutes the identities of individual clubs and creates the feeling they are all simply feeder sides for Man City, the flagship team.

In more of a competitive sense, this has been illustrated by Man City’s pursuit of Savio, a talented player owned by Troyes, another CFG club, and on loan at Girona.

On the face of it, negotiations should be easy. 90min reported in February the Premier League would likely conduct a fair market valuation of the proposed transfer if there are any concerns about the deal. No transfer has been agreed as of yet, but City seem confident there would not be an issue. City have to ensure they pay a representative fee for the player, one that any other club would stump up.

Further complications with this multi-club ownership come in the form of UEFA competitions. UEFA rules currently prohibit two teams owned by the same entity from competing in the same tournament. Girona are currently second in La Liga and there is a very strong chance both they and Man City will be in the Champions League in 2024/25, meaning CFG could have some tough decisions to make.

Another criticism levelled at CFG is that of sportswashing. Some would say it is a sovereign state – the United Arab Emirates – buying football real estate around the world to create a winning machine, which in turn enhances its global image and opens up new business opportunities. This sporting success is used to detract from human rights violations at home.

According to Freedom House, ‘the civil liberties of both citizens and noncitizens are subject to significant restrictions’ in the UAE. Amnesty International notes there are no political parties, almost no freedom of expression, the use of arbitrary detentions and torture, a lack of effort to tackle the climate crisis and a lack of rights for refugees, migrant workers, women and LGBTIQA+ people.

  • What clubs are in City Football Group?

1. Manchester City

Man City cannot stop winning trophies

The big one. Man City are by a million miles the largest team in the City Football Group and will always hold that title.

It’s still fun for fans of other clubs to shout about the Cityzens’ lack of history, but they have now enjoyed success over a long period and are clearly here to stay, providing no sporting sanctions come their way.

Having won the treble in 2022/23, Mansour may well have achieved what he set out to with Man City. The next step is to ensure success continues long into the future.

2. New York City FC
New York City FC are struggling this season

New York City FC became the first club to be acquired by CFG after Man City in May 2013 when they were bought for around £78m for an 80% share.

Big names like Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa headed to New York late in their playing days to help raise the profile of the team. Patrick Vieira has coached them in the past and they are now led by Nick Cushing, who used to manage Man City Women.

They won MLS in 2021 but have lost their first two games of the 2024 season, having finished 11th in 2023.

3. Melbourne City
Melbourne City might not defend their crown this season

Having acquired 80% of Melbourne City in 2014, CFG gained full control of the Australian team in 2015. Spain legend Villa also played here, with the movement of big names between CFG clubs being commonplace.

After finishing second in 2019/20, Melbourne City won the A-League in the following three consecutive seasons.

It’s been a disappointing start to 2023/24, while they have never made it past the group stages of the AFC Champions League in their history.

4. Yokohama F. Marinos
Yokohama F. Marinos are managed by Harry Kewell

The Japanese wing of CFG, a minority stake in Yokohama F. Marinos was bought in May 2014, with Nissan Motors the majority owners.

Current Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou found himself under the CFG umbrella when he coached the J1 League side between 2018 and 2021, delivering the league title in 2019, their first since 2004.

Yokohama were champions in 2022 but lost their crown in 2023 to Vissel Kobe. They are currently in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League, their best result since CFG’s investment.

5. Montevideo City Torque
Montevideo City Torque are a Uruguayan yo-yo club

One of the more minor clubs in the CFG arsenal, Montevideo City Torque were just known as Torque when they were acquired in 2017. They quickly rose to the Uruguayan top flight, were relegated and then promoted again.

Following another demotion, this season they are in the second division again.

CFG have been honest about what Montevideo City Torque are to them, saying the club ‘acts as an administrative hub for City’s pre-existing scouting operations in the region.’

6. Girona
Girona have been flying

Certainly the most topical club CFG have beyond Man City right now, Girona have been getting a lot of attention thanks to their sudden emergence in the La Liga title race.

While Real Madrid have since pulled clear, Girona are on track for a first-ever Champions League appearance, providing the aforementioned UEFA multi-club ownership rules do not scupper it.

CFG bought 44.3% of the Spanish team in 2017, the same percentage Girona Football Group, which is spearheaded by Pep Guardiola’s brother, Pere, owns.

2017 was their first promotion to La Liga, so their current league performance is incredible. Yangel Herrera, Aleix Garcia and Eric Garcia used to play for Man City, while Yan Couto is on loan. Girona sold Taty Castellanos, who previously played for Montevideo City Torque and New York City FC, to Lazio in the summer of 2023.

This is the team most linked with Man City right now in terms of players and destiny.

7. Sichuan Jiuniu

This Chinese side stands out in the sense that they have not yet had their name changed to incorporate the word ‘city’, as has been the case with many of their non-European sides.

In 2019, two years after the club was founded, CFG executed a 28% share buy, with China Sports Capital – whose parent company is CMC – owning 54% and Ubtech Robotics 18%.

They are about to embark on their first season in the Chinese Super League, having won the second division last season. The current coach, Jesus Rodriguez Tato, was an assistant manager at Mumbai City FC.

8. Mumbai City FC
Mumbai City recently faced Al Hilal in continental competition

CFG took a 65% stake in Mumbai City FC in 2019, making them one of the clubs the group has the most control over. Their chairman is Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, who holds the same role at Man City and Melbourne City FC.

Founded in 2014, Peter Reid was the first coach with Freddie Ljungberg being the marquee player, with Nicolas Anelka then taking a player-coach role the following season. Diego Forlan was their main player in 2016.

They have won two league titles since 2019 and are currently in the frame to win the 2023/24 title. Mumbai City FC have not made it past the group stage in the AFC Champions League.

9. Lommel SK
Lommel SK are seeking promotion

One to keep an eye on from a European perspective, Lommel SK were bought by CFG in 2020 and play in the second division of Belgian football.

They are established contenders for promotion in the Challenger Division B and, while a lot of development is still needed, they could end up in a similar position to Girona in the coming years.

10. Troyes
Troyes took on PSG last season but are now fighting against relegation from Ligue 2

Troyes were acquired towards the end of 2020 and became the fourth European team in CFG. They were promoted to Ligue 1 in 2019/20 but relegated again two seasons later.

Poor results so far have led to serious anger from the Troyes fanbase and the club now seems to be the problem child of CFG. ESTAC sacked two popular managers who didn’t seem interested in furthering the CFG project and replaced the second with Patrick Kisnorbo, a coach who was previously at Melbourne City FC with no experience in French football.

Fans protested but he lasted much longer than the previous manager as Troyes were relegated from Ligue 1.

In the summer of 2022, the French side spent €24m on new players, placing their net spend above 16 of the other 19 clubs in Ligue 1. One player spent 19 minutes on the pitch and was then loaned to Lommel, while record arrival Savio was immediately sent to PSV Eindhoven and then Girona.

With the Brazilian now expected to join Man City, Troyes’ fans feel they are being used by CFG to further other clubs.

11. Palermo
Palermo are known for their pink kits

Arguably the highest profile club to be brought under the CFG umbrella, Palermo were purchased to the tune of 80% in July 2022 and are now 94.5% owned by CFG.

Having previously boasted stars like Paulo Dybala, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore, Josip Ilicic, Luca Toni, Fabio Grosso and of course Kyle Lafferty, Palermo are a well-known establishment for fans of a certain age.

Mismanagement meant Palermo became a phoenix club (Palermo Football Club) playing in Serie D in 2019, with COVID-19 and the stopping of amateur leagues seeing the FIGC bump them up to Serie C.

They won promotion to Serie B months before CFG made the purchase and are now fighting towards the top of the table with promotion looking likely in the coming seasons.

12. Bahia
Kayky is the main footballing link between Man City and Bahia

Brazilian side Bahia had a 90% share acquired by CFG in May 2023 and have already seen players move between themselves, Man City and New York City FC.

Man City youngster Kayky is on loan at Bahia. They most recently finished 16th in Serie A, narrowly avoiding relegation.

13. Club Bolivar – Partner Club

Club Bolivar in Bolivia are a partner club of CFG, rather than being part-owned by the group.

They say this allows the club ‘to access a wide breadth of expertise, proprietary technology, best practice and strategic advice developed by City Football Group through its multi-club structure’.

14. Istanbul Basaksehir – Partner Club
Istanbul Basaksehir could be on the way to CFG ownership

CFG announced in February 2024 it had reached an agreement to enter a partnership with Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir.

It’s a collaboration they say will ‘help CFG grow knowledge and develop relationships in Turkey, an ambitious football nation and developer of talent. This will also provide CFG with an opportunity to collaborate across emerging football areas with a club that has a shared vision.’

What we know
  • 14 clubs are owned by or partnered with City Football Group
  • Acquired teams in England, Spain, Italy, France, the USA, India, China and more
  • Troyes fans are angry at how CFG has used their club since the acquisition.


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