Abu Dhabi-owned New York City crowned Major League Soccer champions

More on-field success for the expanding City Football Group which includes Manchester City

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A football dream hatched and backed in Abu Dhabi bore more fruit when New York City FC became United States Major League Soccer champions for the first time.

The City Football Group (CFG), whose majority owners are based in the UAE, now simultaneously house the champion sides in four different countries - England, India, the USA and Australia.

New York City joined Manchester City, Melbourne City and Mumbai City in lifting their domestic crown with a tense, fraught penalty shoot-out victory over Portland Timbers.

On a weekend when the sporting world’s eyes were on the final Formula One Grand Prix of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, it was further confirmation of the importance of the Emirates on the international sporting scene.

Abu Dhabi United Group, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, holds the majority 77 per cent stake in City Football Group. A consortium of Chinese institutional investors led by CMC has a 12 per cent holding and the remaining stake is held by US technology investment firm Silver Lake.

The City Football Group is the charge of Ferran Soriano, the businessman brought in to run Manchester City after CEO Garry Cook’s departure in 2013.

CFG’s aim was that their teams would share a common identity and associated brand. Manchester City would be the main income generator and mothership. The broadly similar playing style and philosophy and colour of the kit largely reflects that approach.

The big idea included global sponsorship packages that opened up new and non-traditional markets to all the clubs and the creation of a pipeline of young talent that will fill the squads at the varying levels of ability in both men’s and women’s football.

CFG teams have their own scouting networks but readily share information between the clubs with hundreds of thousands of players of all ages on their systems. Coaches, too, have moved between the clubs regularly. Nick Cushing, the highly successful manager of the Manchester City Women’s team, moved to New York as assistant to coach Ronny Deila and was part of the weekend celebrations in Portland.

New York, who still don’t have their own ground and pay rent to the iconic New York Yankees baseball team for use of their stadium, became the second member of the stable in 2013 quickly followed by Melbourne Heart - which was renamed Melbourne City - and then a share in Yokohama Marinos in Japan who won their league in 2019.

Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay were next to join the rapidly expanding organisation and they, like Melbourne, changed their name becoming Montevideo City. They have since won two promotions.

In the same year, 2017, it was announced that CFG had acquired a minority stake in Spanish La Liga team Girona and two years later followed the purchase of Sichuan Jiuniu in China and Mumbai City in the Indian Super League.

Over the past 18 months the focus turned to Europe with Belgian club Lommel SK and French side ES Troyes joining the City family. Troyes almost immediately won promotion to Ligue 1.

The title winning sequence for CFG began in March this year when Mumbai City won the Indian Super League title at their seventh attempt, pipping ATK Mohun Bagan in the grand final.

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The City Football Group network of clubs

1. Manchester City, England (100% owned)

2. Melbourne City, Australia (100%)

3. Montevideo City Torque, Uruguay (100%)

4. Lommel SK Belgium, (99%)

5. New York City FC, United States (80%)

6. Mumbai City FC, India (65%)

7. Girona FC, Spain (44.3%)

8. Sichuan Jiuniu, China (29.7%)

9. Yokohama F Marinos, Japan (20%)

10. Troyes AC, France (100%)

11. Club Bolivar, Bolivia

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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City captured their third Premier League title in May by 12 points over neighbours Manchester United and then Melbourne made it three CFG title holders in June when they won the 16th edition of the A League Grand final beating Sydney FC 3-1.

New York’s victory made it four on Sunday, surrendering an injury-time goal before downing Portland in their own stadium in a penalty shoot-out.

CFG most recently entered a partnership with Club Bolivar in Bolivia that extended their number to 11.

In addition to the on-the-field exploits, all the CFG sides are bound by a commitment to sustainability and to be embedded within their local community.

Each of the teams pledge to use football for social good delivered in part through the charitable City in the Community schemes and the Global Foundation which through ‘Cityzens Giving’ encourages fans of all the clubs to help tackle social challenges.

The 12th club is unlikely to be too far away as the board seek more business synergies and more football glory.

Updated: December 13, 2021, 8:24 AM
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