English Premier League champions Manchester City's parent company City Football Group on Thursday bought a majority 65 percent stake in Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Mumbai City FC. This is the first time a top European club has acquired a majority stake of a club in India, and the development is also expected to bring its renowned manager, Pep Guardiola, closer to the country. News of the acquisition was revealed in front of the club's fans by CFG Chief Executive Officer, Ferran Soriano together with chairperson, Football Sports Development Limited and Reliance Foundation, Nita Ambani.
The deal with the Pep Guardiola-managed club's group will see Mumbai City FC benefit from its commercial and football know-how, while at the same time delivering a new and exciting element to the CFG global commercial platform. "Today we welcome a global football powerhouse to India, to Indian Super League and Indian football. I am delighted and proud to announce that the City Football Group has acquired a majority stake in Mumbai City FC," said Ambani.
"For the first time ever, an European club will be acquiring majority stake in an Indian club. I am sure Mumbai City FC and Indian Football will benefit from this historic partnership," she added. Mumbai City FC plays its home games at the 8,000 capacity Mumbai Football Arena, which sits within the Andheri Sports Complex, a multi-purpose sports facility. The team is currently five games into the sixth ISL season.
Soriano said Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola will be in touch with their Mumbai City FC coach. "Pep is part of our network of coaches. And they speak all the time. The example I gave you is our Chinese coach was in Manchester last week coaching with Manchester City team, trying to learn. The coach we have in Mumbai City will have a relationship with Pep Guardiola and with all our other coaches," Soriano said, adding grassroots will be their priority.
CFG will become the majority stakeholder of the franchise alongside existing shareholders, actor Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh, who will keep the remaining 35 per cent. The Premier League club also tweeted that CFG was delighted to welcome the Indian club to its "family of clubs". Soriano said that they were convinced about the future of Indian football. "We have been looking at this for years. I came myself and watched many games and we are now convinced of the bright future of football in India. I am sure 10 years from now, we will be here and we will talking about a lot of people playing good football for India," said Soriano. "City Football Group has agreed a deal to acquire a majority stake in its eighth club, Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League, marking a major move into Indian football," the group said in a statement.
Other clubs in the CFG stable include New York City, Melbourne City, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Girona FC in Spain and Sichuan Jiunia in China. Mumbai City FC, who has never won the ISL, host their matches at the Mumbai Football Arena in suburban Andheri. Commenting on the acquisition and the opportunities it brings to all parties, chairman of City Football Group Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: "We believe that this investment will deliver transformative benefits to Mumbai City FC, to City Football Group and to Indian Football as a whole. City Football Group is committed to the future of football in India and to the potential for Mumbai City FC within that future."
A senior Mumbai City FC official said that it took a while to finalise the deal. "The focus was how we can improve football in the city. That is the core of it. We felt that add a lot of value from the football point of view and CFG felt that they can add lot of value from football point of view. The central pillar of this association is in improving football in Mumbai City FC. Then hopefully have an effect to the national team. We both are clear that both of us are doing for football reasons," the official, who requested anonymity, said.
Co-owner Ranbir Kapoor said, "I am super thrilled for this day. All of us at the Mumbai City FC, the ambition is to make it the best football club in Asia. With this tie up, we hope to replicate what Manchester City has done in English Premier League and that is to win everything in front us. City Football Group's interest in India shows the growth opportunities the country presents in football," added Kapoor.