UEFA has revealed it allowed both RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg into this season’s Champions League because its chief investigator could not firmly establish that Red Bull had “decisive influence” over both clubs.
Integrity rules prevent multiple teams from the same ownership from playing in the Champions League but, despite an early warning by UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) chief investigator, both clubs were admitted in mid-June after several changes were made.
The governing body has now released the full report, which said it has not been proven “to the comfortable satisfaction of the CFCB Adjudicatory Chamber” that Red Bull has the “ability to exercise decisive influence in the relevant decision making of both Clubs or for one of the Clubs to have the ability to exercise decisive influence in the relevant decision making of itself and the other Club.”
Both RB Leipzig, founded by Red Bull in 2009, and Red Bull Salzburg, renamed from SV Austria Salzburg in 2005, have received substantial financial backing from the Austrian soft drink company in the past.
In addition, Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick and CEO Oliver Mintzlaff had previously had responsibilities with the Austrian club, while there have been numerous transfers between the two. Earlier this summer, Konrad Laimer, 20, became the 16th player to join Leipzig from Salzburg, with half of those still under contract in Germany.
However, while the CFCB chief investigator said on May 26 that there are “several links between the legal entity Red Bull GmbH and the Clubs (as well as between the Clubs themselves) which point to Red Bull having ‘decisive influence’ over each of FCS [Salzburg] and RBL [Leipzig] in contravention of Article 5.01,” UEFA said changes made to the structures of the Austrian club ensured this was not true to the same extent.
UEFA said Salzburg removed “certain individuals” linked to Red Bull and simultaneously involved with Leipzig from Salzburg’s general assembly, while another person linked to the soft drink company resigned from his position as chairman of the board, and the club also terminated “certain loan agreements” with Red Bull.
Furthermore, both clubs terminated a cooperation agreement and Red Bull amended its sponsorship agreement with Salzburg, leading to less financial backing and fewer rights for the sponsor, which lost its membership in the club’s general assembly.
Salzburg were also told “to address the issue of branding and visual identity in cooperation with its kit manufacturer.”
UEFA, however, warned both clubs they have “continuing duty to comply” with its rules as well as the “the various commitments made as to future conduct in the Observations and at the hearing.”
Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuttl said in kicker, meanwhile, that the Bundesliga runners-up, who qualified for Champions League in their first ever year in the German top flight, “seek no shortcut to success but rather try to grow healthily and sustainably.”
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.