City Football Group

City Football Group
Holding company
Industry Sports
Sports services
Founded 2014
Founder HH Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Khaldoon Al Mubarak
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people
Khaldoon Al Mubarak
Ruigang Li
Brian Marwood
Ferran Soriano
Tom Glick
Revenue GB£473.375 million[1] (2017)
GB£4.384 million[1] (2017)
GB£1.088 million[1] (2017)
Total assets GB£678.208 million[1] (2017)
Owner Abu Dhabi United Group (87%)
China Media Capital/CITIC Capital (13%)
Number of employees
709 (2015)
Subsidiaries Manchester City F.C. (100%)
New York City FC (80%)
Melbourne City FC (100%)
Yokohama F. Marinos (20%)
Club Atlético Torque (100%)
Girona FC (44.3%)
City Football Academy
City Football Marketing
City Football Services
City Football Japan
City Football Singapore
City Football China
Website Official website

The City Football Group (CFG) is a holding company that administers association football clubs under the ownership of Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG).[2] It is part-owned by Chinese firms China Media Capital and CITIC Capital.[3]

The company's flagship club is Manchester City F.C. in the English Premier League. It also owns parts of clubs in the United States, Australia, Japan, Spain, and Uruguay. The company's aim is to own a team on each continent, each with the identifier "City" in its name.[4]


Manchester City FC

The Abu Dhabi United Group was founded in the summer of 2008, as Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan looked to take over Manchester City Football Club from the former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra.[5] The Abu Dhabi United Group was set up in order to facilitate the purchase of the Premier League club.

After its takeover, Manchester City launched into a complete overhaul of all departments, intent on rising to the top as fast as possible. On the pitch, the following seasons saw the team replaced under the management of Mark Hughes[6][7] and then a second time under Roberto Mancini as the lobbying of established UEFA Champions League clubs in the Premier League[8][9] forced the Manchester team to act quickly in order to achieve Champions League status before the newly implemented Financial Fair Play Regulations made it inviable for teams to spend outside of their earnings in an attempt to move up the table. Meanwhile, off the pitch City spent £10 million on revamping their Platt Lane academy base[10] as they formulated plans to produce a £100m training and academy facility on land opposite their stadium, studying training facilities around the world in an attempt to create the world's foremost development in its field.[11][12] This came in conjunction with the announcement in 2014 that they had received planning permission to increase their stadium capacity to over 62,000, making it the second largest club stadium in England.[13] Further investment came in the field of fan engagement, where City committed themselves to a policy of winning the global popularity contest with a mass display of social media.[14][15][16]

Under Mansour's leadership, Manchester City Football Club have currently lifted the 2011 FA Cup, 2011–12 Premier League & 2013-14 Premier League, 2012 FA Community Shield, 2013–14 Football League Cup and the 2015-16 Football League Cup.The club also won the 2017-18 Football League Cup.

Manchester City Women

Although Manchester City Women had existed since 1988 (previously under the name Manchester City Ladies F.C.) they existed solely as an affiliate of the club until August 2012, with few shared resources and with CFG enjoying no control over the club's management. After four years of control of the men's side in Manchester, the Abu Dhabi United Group - progenitors of City Football Group - elected to bring the women's team under their aegis also, forming a partnership with the club which would effectively make it a department of Manchester City F.C.[17]

Very soon after taking control of the club, ADUG announced their intention to support their women's department as they had supported the men, relaunching the club as Manchester City Women's Football Club[18] and successfully lobbying for the team to be added to the top tier of the FA Women's Super League when it was expanded, fuelled by promises of levels of support and funding not usual in women's football in the UK. Their support was rapidly repaid, with their radically reshaped team producing a first major trophy in the 2014 FA WSL Cup[19] before narrowly missing out on a league triumph the following season.[20]

New York City FC

When Ferran Soriano was appointed Manchester City CEO in August 2012, Don Garber reached out to him about a New York City team,[21] having previously held discussions with him in his former capacity as Vice President of Barcelona.[22] In December 2012, unnamed sources told the media that Manchester City were close to being announced as the new owners of the 20th team of Major League Soccer (MLS), and the brand name "New York City Football Club" was trademarked, although the club quickly denied the report.[23] However, Garber announced in March 2013 that he was almost ready to unveil the new expansion team.[24]

New York City Football Club, LLC was registered with the New York State Department on 7 May 2013,[25] and on 21 May New York City FC was officially announced as the 20th MLS franchise.[26] Linking the club to its English parent, the new MLS side hired as its first employee former Manchester City, MLS and US national team player Claudio Reyna to serve as Director of Football,[27] while a statement of intent was made with the signing of home-grown rising star manager and MLS Cup winner Jason Kreis to serve as the team's first head coach.[28] In 2016, Manchester City's academy manager Patrick Vieira moved to New York to manage NYCFC.[29]

Melbourne City FC

The group's ownership of the club was announced on 23 January 2014, with the news that Manchester City had acquired the then-named Melbourne Heart for $12 million. After several days of talks in Melbourne and Sydney, City's senior executives completed the deal which saw them own 80% of the Australian club. City Football Group bought the other 20% that was held by a consortium of businessmen allied to Australian rugby league club Melbourne Storm.[30]

The takeover of the Australian A-League club came only days after an application to trademark the name "Melbourne City Football Club" was lodged on 16 January. Coincidentally, Melbourne Heart's minority shareholders also registered the business name "Melbourne City FC" with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and bought the domain name "".[31] In August 2015, City Football Group bought out the sports consortium to acquire 100% ownership of the club.[32]

Since August 2015, City Football Group has held 100% ownership of Australian-based sister club Melbourne City Football Club.[32]

Melbourne City NPL

As part of the expansion of the National Premier Leagues Victoria 1 (now known as NPL Victoria 2), Melbourne City had an application accepted to field a team based around their now-defunct Youth side in the competition along with five additional new entrants. On 6 December 2014 they announced the creation of their NPL team, which began competition in the 2015 season.[33]

Melbourne City Women

Following the success of their investment in Manchester City's women's team, CFG announced their continued support of women's football with the creation of a women's department in Melbourne in 2015 which was accepted as an expansion team in the W-League.[34]

Facing a league bereft of meaningful investment, CFG's support of their team produced a clean sweep of the board, with their women's team going unbeaten as they won both the league and the play-off series at the first time of asking in the 2015–16 W-League,[35] setting a series of club and player records as they went.[36]

Yokohama F. Marinos

On 20 May 2014, it was announced that City Football Group had invested in a minority share of Yokohama F. Marinos, creating a partnership with both the football club and car manufacturer Nissan.[37] City Football Group is estimated to hold 20 percent of Yokohama F. Marinos' existing shares, but through the establishment of a Japan-based subsidiary may seek to eventually own a controlling stake in the club.[38]

Club Atlético Torque

On April 5, 2017, CFG announced that it had acquired Club Atlético Torque, a club in Montevideo currently playing in the Uruguayan Primera División.[39]


On August 23, 2017, it was announced that the City Football Group had acquired 44.3% of La Liga side Girona. Another 44.3% was held by the Girona Football Group, led by Pere Guardiola, brother of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.[40] Girona had previously been loaned a number of players by Manchester City while they were in the Segunda División, in what was seen by some as an attempt to attract Pep Guardiola to Manchester City.[41][42] In August 2018, Girona had two loanees, both 21 years old, from Manchester City.[43]

Girona C

In line with the Spanish standard of major teams operating B-teams as development squads for younger players, Girona owns a subsidiary team named simply Girona C, following the incorporation in 2011 of the formerly independent side CF Riudellots.[44] At the time of the purchase of Girona by CFG, the club operated in the Segona Catalana division, the sixth level of football in Spain. Girona additionally operate a primary B-team - CF Peralada-Girona B - although this team is merely in partnership with Girona and neither Girona nor CFG have any ownership stake in the club.

As an official B-team Girona C is ineligible for promotion to a higher division than any other Girona-affiliated side above them in the leagues. Nor is it eligible to play in any cup competition in which Girona themselves already compete.

Future clubs

When addressed in interviews both internal and external, senior City Football Group personnel have made no secret of their continued plans for the expansion of the group, with group chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak commenting that "I would say that when the opportunity arises - and we are looking at opportunities - you can expect us to add to the number of clubs we have already within that organisation".[45] Although those personnel will rarely be drawn on the exact locations in which they are looking, it has been commented that CFG aim at the least to have one team on each continent,[4] with links to a potential Chinese team particularly strong following a £265m investment in the group by two Chinese companies,[3] while India has been suggested by Tom Glick, the group's chief commercial officer.[46] City Football Group were courted for investment by John Comitis, owner of Cape Town City F.C. and previous engineer of the working relationship between Ajax and Ajax Cape Town,[47] though CFG themselves did not comment on the link and no such partnership ultimately emerged.

CFG have previously been linked with investment into European sides AS Saint-Étienne,[48] Estoril[49] and Boavista.[50]

It was reported on July 13 2017 that Ecuadorian Serie A club River Ecuador F.C. had been bought by CFG following the club announcing that they had rebranded as Guayaquil City F.C..[51] No statement of confirmation was issued by CFG themselves, and after several days the main source advocating the link - MKT Esportivo - deleted their article following a wave of journalists denying the link on social media.

Honours achieved

The following senior-level trophies have been won by City Football Group teams while under the ownership and control of the group:

Team Seasons under CFG Domestic Continental Total
League Playoffs series Cup Super Cup Cup Super Cup
Girona C10n/an/an/an/an/a0
Manchester City1103n/a41008
Manchester City EDS21n/an/a0n/an/an/a0
Manchester City Women41n/a3n/a0n/a4
Melbourne City4001n/a0n/a1
Melbourne City NPL300n/an/an/an/a0
Melbourne City Women313n/an/an/an/a4
New York City FC3000n/a0n/a0
C.A. Torque110n/an/a001
Yokohama F. Marinos400000n/a0

1 Includes titles won while under control of City Football Group personnel, but before the creation of the company itself
2 Although the EDS have operated as Manchester City's reserve team for considerably longer than CFG have owned the club, they only began competing in a senior competition in 2017–18 when they were given a place in the EFL Trophy.

Affiliated clubs

Player development/recruitment partners

Manchester City have had a series of agreements with clubs to whom they can loan youth players from non-EU countries who otherwise would need to serve five years of residence in the UK to earn an EU passport granting them the ability to play in England without needing a work permit. Primarily the countries of Benelux and Scandinavia are viewed as the shortest way of achieving this. Following various developments and in the aftermath of Brexit obtaining EU citizenship for players is less relevant to CFG, but CFG retain an active relationship with NAC Breda for the development of youth talents.
NYCFC signed a partnership agreement with Long Island Rough Riders of the Premier Development League in April 2016.
NYCFC signed an affiliation deal with San Antonio FC of Texas in 2017, replacing their previous partnership with the Wilmington Hammerheads. Their association involves close cooperation on training and player scouting, as well as a league-mandated commitment for at least four players to be loaned to the USL side.
CFG signed a collaboration agreement with Atletico Venezuela of the Venezuelan Primera Division in April 2017. The scouting agreement enabled both parties to share scouting data, and also included the provision of coaching support to Atletico. Venezuelan midfielder Yangel Herrera has signed for Manchester City[55] from Atletico Venezuela and been loaned to New York City FC.[56]
Shortly before CFG bought a stake in Girona FC, Peralada - who had previously signed a five-year partnership to become a development feeder for Girona - formalised their status with their parent club to become an official B-team, and renamed themselves by adding -Girona B to their club name. However, Girona owns no part of the club and their relationship extends no further than their co-operation agreement.

Mutual co-operation partners

CFG have a partnership with the Ghanaian FA whereby each season their respective technical staff pool knowledge related to training players.

Overseas academies

City Football Group have a partnership with the Right to Dream Academy which allows them to cherry-pick the best talent from the academy once players graduate. Stories have circulated that City bought the academy and own it outright, though if this is true it has never been publicised.

Defunct partnerships

As a condition for their continuing existence in Major League Soccer, New York City FC along with all MLS clubs are expected to either affiliate with or own and operate a club competing in the United Soccer League. Rather than opting to field their own B-team, NYCFC signed an affiliation deal with Wilmington Hammerheads of North Carolina. The affiliation was extended for the 2016 season, and ended when the Hammerheads self-relegated to the amateur Premier Development League on September 29, 2016.[63]

Principles and interests

The City Way

Mirroring CFG's dedication to an identifiable cross-club brand via similar kits is the principle of the City Way, a concept whereby all teams which play under their banner, regardless of continent or competition, can be seen to play according to a prototype style based on passing, possession and attacking philosophy[64] largely derived from the tactics used by Barcelona when under the control of now-Manchester City trio Pep Guardiola, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Beguiristain.[65] While the City Way has come to be understood to include a high press and rapid counter-attacks, it has also come to be characterised - particularly in the media - by an implicit acknowledgement that attacking proficiency usually comes at the expense of a somewhat unreliable defence, partly due to the circumstantial failings of the senior sides in Manchester, New York and Melbourne.[66][67]

An additional key aspect of the City Way is its universal application, with not only the various CFG first teams following it but also women's teams as well as academy sides down to the lowest levels.[68][69]

Team Player Console From To
Manchester City Kieran "Kez" Brown Xbox One 2016 2018
Marcus "ExpectSporting" Jorgensen PS4 2017
Kai "Deto" Wollin PS4 2018
Melbourne City Marcus "SoccerStar007777" Gomes Xbox One 2017
Josh "joshingwood" Wood PS4 2018
New York City Christopher "NYC_Chris" Holly PS4 2017
Joseph "Joey" Calabro Xbox One 2017 2018


Looking to capitalise on the growth of eSports and for City Football Group to be seen as always being at the forefront of development, given the growing trend for football teams to recruit eSports teams and players (especially those specialising in the FIFA game series), CFG made their first venture into digital gaming by signing Kieran "Kez" Brown to represent Manchester City at FIFA tournaments and fan events as well as to make digital content for their social media profiles.[70]

Nine months later, NYCFC followed up by recruiting their own eSports player, Christopher "NYC_Chris" Holly, who became the first FIFA player signed to represent a Major League Soccer club,[71] while the A-League acquired their first professional FIFA player when Melbourne City signed Marcus "marcus_7170" Gomes in August of the same year.[72]

See also


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  3. 1 2 "CFG Statement: 1 December 2015". 1 December 2015. Archived from the original on 8 February 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  4. 1 2 Delaney, Miguel. "Manchester City ownership group plans Chinese Super League expansion". ESPNFC. ESPN. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
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  70. "Manchester City sign first e-sports player". BBC Sports. 7 July 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  71. "Christopher Holly Joins NYCFC as eSports Representative". April 5, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  72. "City sign A-League's first FIFA eSports player". 15 August 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
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