Can Manchester United Become the Next Gulf-Backed Football Project?

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Manchester: Potential new owners of Manchester United have until Friday to reveal their interest in buying one of the club biggest players, amid reports in the British press of a Qatari bid to buy the ‘Red Devils’, which could unleash a shock wave in the corridors of European football, in successful case. Last November, the American Glazer family, current owners of United, opened the door to a new investment in the English giant, in the form of a minority stake or a full acquisition. While deeply unpopular with the fans who uploaded the club Of huge debts after a £790 million ($961 million) buyout in 2005, the Glazers are set to walk away with a huge profit. According to reports from the mediathey are looking for six billion pounds to disengage from the three-time European champions, which would beat the price record for a football club established by Chelsea last year. A consortium led by Todd Boyle has paid £2.5 billion to buy the Blues, with the promise of a further £1.75 billion in future investments in infrastructure and players. So far only the British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, owner of the petrochemical giant “Ineos”, which also owns the club Frenchman from Nice, officially and publicly presented himself as a potential buyer for United. However, reports still exist of a bid backed by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The power and influence of Paris Saint-Germain Qatar already enjoys great influence in European football. Paris Saint-Germain have dominated French football since being acquired by Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the state sovereign wealth fund, in 2011, and have attracted some of the biggest star of football such as the Argentinian Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and the Brazilian Neymar at the Parco dei Principi. In addition, Qatari Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, is also president of the influential European Clubs Association. And just months after hosting the 2022 World Cup, a successful bid from Qatar will give the gas-rich Gulf state a pride of place in the world’s most-watched English Premier League. “Qatar’s investment in Paris Saint-Germain has been a huge success, but no other tournament in the world has the same global significance as the English Premier League,” says Daniel Reiche, assistant professor of international relations at Georgetown University in Qatar. “Therefore, acquiring Manchester United would make perfect sense,” he adds. United’s ownership could also provide Qatar with an opportunity for bragging rights among its Gulf neighbors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which own shares in the Premier League. Abu Dhabi’s investment in Manchester City has transformed the team in a dominant force in championship, winning six titles in the last 11 seasons, as Newcastle climb to fourth place and reach the League Cup final for the first time in 47 years old, just 16 months after joining a Saudi sovereign wealth fund. But neither City nor Newcastle bear the pride of a victorious United with 20 Premier League titles and a huge fan base in Worldwide. Raishi points out that “the Gulf’s investments in club football markets cannot be viewed from a purely economic perspective. It serves the purpose of branding the country and as a tool for international relations. He adds: “The rivalry between two countries in a single city, with the UAE owning Manchester City and Qatar owning Manchester United, will be a new escalation in the rivalry between these two countries, with relations having recently deteriorated.” Regulatory hurdles Qatar’s bid will have to overcome a number of regulatory hurdles.Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten rules on the property to ensure it “respects human rights and is not an opportunity for further sporting laundering”.But the precedent set in giving the via free for investment by the Emirates and Saudi Arabia makes it unlikely that the English Premier League will prevent a takeover. Even more annoying could be the rules of the European Football Association (UEFA), which prevent two teams from being subject “directly or indirectly” to the same entity to compete in Champions League. A source familiar with the takeover file confirms that its sponsors are not related to the owners of Saint-Germain. “Most importantly, the potential bidder is not Qatar Sports Investment Company or Qatar Investment Authority, it is a completely different fund,” the source says. Attempting to distinguish between established funds in Qatar will be met with skepticism by club rivals. Despite this, i club Germans Leipzig and Austrian Salzburg found ways to bypass the rules of “Wifa” and were able to participate in the competition themselves, regardless of ownership by the company “Red Bull”. United is in a state of stagnation since the historic former coach of the club, the Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson, has left the “Old Trafford” stadium, while winning the last league title a decade ago. The “Red Devils” have not won a title for six years and have failed to qualify for the Champions League in this season. Friday’s filing deadline could herald the start of a new era of success for the club, backed by Qatar’s oil and gas wealth. However, it remains to be seen how fans of the antique will react club English, should the Qatari bid get the via free. (AFP)

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