Two Red Bull-owned clubs clash for the first time in Europe

For the first time in European history, two clubs owned by the same group would clash in the UEFA Europa League — when Red Bull owned RB Leipzig takes on RB Salzburg.

German club RB Leipzig and Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg, both owned by Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull, will go head-to-head in the Europa League.   -  Representational Image/Getty Images

Although it is common for a company to own multiple football clubs, it is rarely seen that the clubs owned by the same group go head to head against each other.

On Thursday, for the first time in European history, two clubs owned by the same group would clash in the UEFA Europa League.

German club RB Leipzig and Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg, both owned by Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull, would go head to head. It's not just that these clubs are owned by the same group, but they wear identical colours and club badges.

According to an AFP report, UEFA, the governing body of European football, introduced a rule to protect the “integrity of European club competitions” in 1998, after British holding company ENIC bought, or took stakes in, half a dozen clubs: Tottenham Hotspur, Slavia Prague, Glasgow Rangers, Vicenza, Basel and AEK Athens.

UEFA also introduced a new rule which said that two clubs with the same owner cannot play in the same competition. However, on Thursday, two Red Bulls will collide.

It has only become possible as following an investigation in June 2017, UEFA decided that the clubs did not share the same owner. It also realised that Austrian drinks billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz had surrendered direct control of Salzburg, remaining only as the shirt and stadium sponsor.

Yet, Salzburg still appears to function as part of a supply chain, which also includes the New York Red Bulls of the MLS and Red Bull Brasil, which plays in the Sao Paulo state league in Brazil.

This will not be the first time that such a match will be played in the world of football. For instance, in India, two clubs, known for their massive popularity and rivalry — East Bengal and Mohun Bagan — have clashed while being sponsored by two different brands of a group. At one point in time, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan were owned by United Breweries Group. While the group's Kingfisher brand backed East Bengal, it was McDowell's in Mohun Bagan's corner.

Professor Simon Chadwick of the University of Salford in England told AFP that there are “between 15 and 20 entities” who have embarked on a multi-club strategy.

“Purely in football terms, as football clubs, this is very much about building a talent acquisition network,” Chadwick said.

“To win football matches, you need the best possible talents, and to get the best possible talents, if you operate on a network basis, you have more people in more places watching more games, scouting more players. It's about brand visibility and trying to cultivate a new type of global fan who supports an entire network of clubs," Chadwick said.

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