ZURICH (Reuters) - Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig and Austrian champions Salzburg can both play in the Champions League next season after UEFA said it was satisfied that energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull does not have a controlling influence in both clubs. The club financial control board of European soccer’s governing body said in a statement on Tuesday that “no individual or legal entity” had a decisive influence over more than one of the two clubs.
UEFA rules do not allow any two clubs competing in European competition to share the same owner. In cases where that happens, priority is given to a team who are champions of their country -- meaning that Leipzig would have missed out.
Red Bull bought Austria Salzburg in 2005, renaming it Red Bull Salzburg, and then SSV Markranstaedt in 2009, giving it the name RB Leipzig.
It has argued that, following a restructuring, it no longer has a controlling stake in Salzburg and merely sponsors the club.
Salzburg will enter the Champions League in the second qualifying round after winning the Austrian league last season.
Leipzig will go straight into the group stage after finishing second in the German Bundesliga in their first season in top-flight football. UEFA said it had conducted a “thorough investigation” and that there had been “several important governance and structural changes made by the clubs”.
It said it would “continue to monitor both clubs to ensure that integrity rules are respected going forward”.
Red Bull’s involvement has proved contentious with fans of both clubs.
Salzburg have won the Austrian league eight times in the last 11 seasons, though remarkably have never qualified for the Champions League group stage since the takeover.
Fans, however, were angered when the team’s traditional violet strip was changed to red and white and a group of them set up a new club, named Austria Salzburg, which began in the seventh tier of the league.
Leipzig’s quick rise through the ranks of the German football pyramid also angered supporters who accused the club of buying success and they have faced protests at several stadiums.
They also circumvented rules banning the use of Red Bull in the club’s official name by calling themselves RasenBallsport Leipzig (grassball sport Leipzig) or RB Leipzig.
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis