Since 2008, Manchester City has been owned and operated by the City Football Group (CFG), when Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahayan funded the takeover via the Abu Dhabi United Group. The club was completely transformed and huge success quickly followed, particularly during the several years with Pep Guardiola as head coach.
The acquisition of Manchester City also laid the foundations of a much larger business, given that CFG has made their English club the keystone of a globally reaching operation, creating a football brand that continues growing. Indeed, CFG now directly operates eleven clubs located in five different continents, several of which utilize the distinct ‘City’ brand and name.
A special trophy for us 🏆 🏆 🏆#PrideOfAbuDhabi 🤍🖤 pic.twitter.com/Qcnx3QRelu
— Al Jazira Club (@AlJazira_uae_EN) December 21, 2021
Your champions 🏆📸#PrideOfAbuDhabi 🤍🖤 pic.twitter.com/TVxiaD6kpi
— Al Jazira Club (@AlJazira_uae_EN) May 12, 2021
Aside from being the source of numerous external football investments, the United Arab Emirates also boasts its own elite Pro League that was founded in 1973. This competition continues to rise in the Asian Football Conference (AFC) rankings, currently occupying the eighth position. This has helped to encourage a vibrant football culture in the country, with fans now eagerly following domestic teams, alongside their favorite overseas clubs.
Many fans enjoy adding to the excitement of watching matches by wagering on the outcomes, albeit with the need to do so discreetly. This is why Arabian Betting has produced a comprehensive guide, helping Emiratis find the best sports betting sites in the United Arab Emirates, covering everything from online safety and privacy to where the most competitive odds can be found.
One of the most successful teams in the UAE Pro League is Al Jazira Club, which is directly owned by Sheikh Mansour and he also serves as their chairman. However, aside from the movement of commercial and corporate employees, they currently don’t have any other direct ties to the City Football Group, although that could potentially change in the future. That said, Al Jazira Club will undoubtedly tap into certain CFG resources, such as the scouting network.
🔷 #ManCity | https://t.co/axa0klD5re pic.twitter.com/m1QOttDYgi
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 23, 2021
Manchester City is not the only European concern for City Football Group, having carefully invested in other ventures within the same continent. In 2017, CFG entered into an equal partnership deal with Girona Football Group, with each party securing 44.3% stakes in Girona FC. The Spanish club. Serving on their board of directors as president is Pere Guardiola, the brother of Man City manager Pep Guardiola.
In May 2020, Lommel SK became the third European side to join the CFG family, when they acquired a majority stake in the club, which currently plays in the Belgian second tier. The 2021-22 first-team squad includes several players loaned from other CFG clubs. Esperance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne (ESTAC) was purchased in September 2020, becoming the fourth European venture and the tenth club overall to be acquired by CFG.
Reports emerged in early November 2021 that CFG is taking an interest in Spartak Moscow, getting to know the details of the Russian club, ahead of potentially acquiring a 20% stake. Otherwise, hierarchy within CFG has suggested there’s little scope for further European expansions, having expressed a desire to focus on developing rather than established regions.
North & South America
City of Dreams 💙✨ #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/MCciaAEuYa
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) December 6, 2021
This year's playoffs was absolutely Amazing!! Full of upsets, shocks, surprises, and Mind Blowing moments!! The playoffs were Completely unpredictable, where anything could've happened, and it did. And that's what brings the true Awesomeness and Beauty of the #mlscupplayoffs https://t.co/eseTpYSOVA
— MLS Gaming Discord (@MLSGaming_) December 21, 2021
Keen to establish a strong foothold in the United States, CFG founded New York City Football Club in 2013. Interestingly, this opportunity originally arose when Manchester City CEO, Ferran Soriano, was working in a similar capacity at FC Barcelona prior to 2012. Don Garber, the Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner, was hoping to get Barcelona involved in forming a new franchise club. When he left Barcelona and joined CFG, Soriano pursued that interest.
April 2017 brought the first move into the South American region when CFG acquired Club Atletico Torque, based in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. The club was immediately renamed Montevideo City Torque and in 2021, the Montevideo City Football Academy was unveiled, serving as an important regional base for youth development and scouting.
In January 2021, Club Bolivar joined the City Football Group family. This partnership with the Bolivian side is a first for CFG, who appear to be actively seeking further strategic agreements with other South American clubs. The key benefit here would be expanding the scouting network, given the region is a hotbed of talent, which inevitably catches the eye of some of the biggest European clubs.
Asia & Australia
The 𝙊𝙉𝙇𝙔 team to have completed the double in a 12 team @ALeague 😏😉#CmonCity | #Premiers | #Champions pic.twitter.com/31cPCC3B8O
— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) July 1, 2021
The first move in this gigantic and populous region, CFG made their move into the Australian A-League in January 2014, when it was announced they had acquired Melbourne Heart for $12 million. Rebranded as Melbourne City Football Club, the team has become successful and CFG has also invested heavily in associated youth and women’s football.
Shortly afterward, CFG gained a foothold in the Japanese market, acquiring an estimated 20% stake in Yokohama F. Marinos in May 2014, with the remaining 80% owned by Nissan. Off the pitch and beyond football, this led to a strategic commercial partnership between the two control groups. February 2019 brought the first step into China when CFG purchased their 28% stake in Sichuan Jiuniu FC.
Mumbai City FC was established in August 2014, just in time for the inaugural Indian Super League season, with former Man City players Peter Reid and Nicolas Anelka serving as their first two head coaches. The 65% stake CFG own was acquired in November 2019, cementing official ties between the two clubs. Mumbai City FC won the IPL title in 2020-21 and that success is expected to continue.
Looking to the Future
Although the City Football Group rarely discusses planned moves, they are expected to add more clubs to their current portfolio often, along with actively pursuing further strategic partnerships with teams around the world. The keenest focus at present appears to be towards the Asian and South American markets, which both offer huge potential for growth.
Nevertheless, there’s one continent that still remains untouched by CFG and that’s Africa. Back in 2017, the owners of Cape Town City in South Africa sought links with Manchester City, although nothing eventually came of those negotiations. That said, the country and the continent would be a logical next step for CFG, offering largely untapped potential and scope. It could become a reality within the next few years.