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Red faces for Red Bull? Two clubs, one owner and potential Champions League embarrassment
Despite the fairytale season, RB Leipzig may not play in next season’s competition after all.

BACK IN APRIL, Bundesliga side RB Leipzig secured their Champions League place.

It was a fascinating story. A lowly club that was only founded in 2009 (it was formerly a fifth-tier side called SVV Markranstadt before drinks company Red Bull arrived, picked up the playing licence and began to invest lots of money) had experienced a litany of promotions and would now be taking a seat at Europe’s top table.

Or so we thought.

Because Leipzig is not the only city to host a Red Bull-owned football team. In Salzburg, they also have quite a successful one. And on Saturday, the side claimed another Austrian championship – their eighth since Red Bull took over in 2005.

And that could have a major impact on Leipzig’s ambitions.

Under Uefa rules, teams with strong ownership links cannot play in European competition during the same season.

The governing body stipulates that it’s the higher-placed team that will be allowed compete, with the others having to step down.

FC Schalke 04 vs. RB Leipzig Ina Fassbender RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg reacts during a game against Schalke last month. Ina Fassbender

So, in this case – going by the small print – Salzburg will play in the Champions League next term and Leipzig will miss out.

But, the latter feel they have a chance of persuading the authorities that they’re significantly different from their Austrian counterparts in their day-to-day operations. Still, it would reflect incredibly poorly on Uefa if they allow their rules to be circumvented here. Both clubs are owned by Red Bull – it doesn’t get much clearer than that. And in recent seasons, there has been plenty of heavily-documented transfers between both clubs – something that has irked Salzburg fans in particular.

However, Uefa have confirmed that a decision will only be reached, as per usual, once the various administrative work (entry forms for the tournaments and various other documentation) is completed by clubs at the end of their respective domestic campaigns early next month.

RB Leipzig vs Karlsruher SC Jan Woitas RB Leipzig's Oliver Mintzlaff (left) and Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz in discussion last year. Jan Woitas

Just a few days ago, Leipzig’s CEO Oliver Mintzlaff – who was Red Bull’s Global Head of Football until earlier this year – dismissed the chances of his club missing out on Europe’s premier competition.

“We have no worries and are looking forward to the [Champions League] draw on Aug. 25 and an attractive opponent for Leipzig,” he said.

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For those involved in the upper echelons of Red Bull, it’s sure to be frustrating, mainly because of Leipzig’s momentum and Salzburg’s pedigree.

There’s an intrigue to the former’s meteoric rise and, traditionally, Bundesliga sides are competitive in the Champions League. This season, three of four German teams made it through to the knockout stages.

Meanwhile, rather inevitably given the economics involved, Salzburg have struggled to make their mark, failing to qualify for the group stages of the competition in the last five years.

Red Bull are surely desperate for Leipzig to play in Europe’s elite competition. But, it may not be as easy as they think.

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