Analysis: The Man Utd bid and Qatar’s global sporting intent | Football

Doha, Qatar – Avram Glazer was in the stands last month to watch Manchester United lift their first trophy in six years.

United’s triumph over Newcastle in the English League Cup could very well be the club’s last trophy to be owned by the Glazer family.

Avram’s celebrations were met with protests only a few rows ahead. Some angry fans pointedly waved a banner that read “Glazers Out” at the American businessman, demanding that his family be removed from the club’s helm.

In November, the Glazer family put the club up for sale after nearly 18 turbulent years in ownership.

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, the founder and head of chemical conglomerate INEOS, submitted a bid to take 69 percent of the club, with the same percentage owned by the Glazers.

The other top bid, seeking outright ownership, was submitted by Qatari businessman Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the son of a former Qatari prime minister and chairman of a major Qatari bank.

Both parties have been asked to submit revised bids by Wednesday evening, but the deadline has been extended due to confusion between the current owners and interested parties.

Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation press release promised a bright future for the club should it thrive, including “investments in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and other infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports”. .

His bid to take over one of the world’s most popular football clubs follows Qatar, which hosted the World Cup last year and won the right to host the 2030 Asian Games.

Jassim’s bid comes as no surprise to pundits, who say it is consistent with his country’s ambition to be seen as a sporting powerhouse.

His interest in Manchester United suggests Qatar is taking that ambition to the next level, according to Ross Griffin, an assistant professor at Qatar University whose research interests include Western media’s portrayal of the Arab world and the relationship between sport and post-colonial society.

“Qatar’s ambition [in sport] splits into two branches,” he said. The first will remain focused on Qatar hosting sporting events such as the 2024 Asian Cup and 2030 Asian Games, while the potential purchase of a Premier League football club would be part of the second leg.

Read  College football games start this weekend, don't get duped by ticket scams

Griffin said that by hosting last year’s FIFA World Cup, Qatar was able to showcase Arab society to the western world in a way that changed preconceived notions about the region. “They think that we brought over a million people to Qatar and they saw our culture and society up close, so now let’s take Qatar to the world,” he said.

Ambitions for the future of the club

Jassim also wants to be associated with the club he grew up with.

Jassim’s application was submitted through his Nine Two Foundation, the name an apparent nod to Manchester United’s famous ‘Class of 92’ team that won multiple titles in the 1990s. It’s also the year Jassim reportedly started supporting the club.

He has revealed great ambitions for the future of both men’s and women’s teams at all levels. According to the Nine Two Foundation press release, the debt-free bid plans to “return the club to its former glory on and off the pitch”.

Griffin believes that because “you don’t have to invest billions to establish the brand of such a well-known football club,” instead more money should be invested in rebuilding the team’s Old Trafford Stadium, improving its Carrington training facilities and, most importantly, investing in the local community.

“If you want to bring Qatar to the UK, you have to show Qatar in all the positive things that it can do,” he said. “You integrate as part of the fabric and community.”

“Qatar’s greatest advantage is that it is very well funded,” said the professor, “and it will use that money to build a positive relationship, something the Glazers have never done.

Read  Champions League: Inside Benfica's £1bn talent factory

“Over the years, the Glazers have been withdrawing money and moving it across the Atlantic, but Qatar says it will do the opposite by reinvesting in the community.”

The concerns of the fans

The city of Manchester in north-west England is no stranger to Arab football ownership. In 2008, United’s rivals Manchester City were bought by a group of companies backed by the UAE’s royal family.

About 240 km (150 miles) north is another English football club, Newcastle United, owned by a consortium run by a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, which took over in 2021.

However, some Manchester United fans have rejected Jassim’s offer as an attempt to “sportingly wash” Qatar’s human rights record, which has been questioned by Western media in the years leading up to the World Cup and during the tournament.

A group of club supporters showed their displeasure at Jassim’s offer at United’s Premier League game against Southampton on March 12 by holding a banner that read ‘No Qatari sportswashing at United!’

However, some experts said the influx of capital from the Gulf region into international sport was not linked to image building or “sports washing”.

“This is not about soft power. It’s about money and governance,” said Craig LaMay, director of the journalism and strategic communications program at Northwestern University’s Qatar campus.

LaMay, co-author of the book Football in the Middle East, said: “The Arab Gulf countries are among the very few who have the money and are in a unique position to pay for these enormous sporting ambitions – from club ownership to the Olympics Games up to the Olympic Games World Championship.”

He said the oil- and gas-rich Gulf states would continue to invest in football “as long as international sports organizations need funding for their competitions,” which in turn will help those states increase their international visibility.

“Football and other sports have always focused on the West as their institutions, and that’s where the governing bodies have been based,” LaMay said. “As they are challenged by new owners and investors from a different region, the global governance of the sport could also change. There will also be resentment from those giving up power and influence.”

Read  How many times have multiple 1 seeds lost before Sweet 16? Purdue, Kansas add to March Madness history of early exits

Another group of Manchester United fans have raised concerns about the bidder’s “close ties” to the state of Qatar and the club’s possible link to a state that has direct ties to French club Paris Saint-Germain through its equity holding body Qatar Sports Investment (QSI). connected is.

“There are questions of sporting integrity given the exceptionally close ties between this bidder and the owners of other European clubs, including PSG,” Manchester United Supporters Trust said in a statement after the initial bid was made.

The rules of European football’s governing body, UEFA, state that two clubs cannot participate in the same competition if they are directly or indirectly controlled by the same ownership group.

With both Manchester United and PSG placed near the top of their respective domestic leagues, there could be a possibility of a clash between them should they qualify for the UEFA Champions League or Europa League. While QSI is a subsidiary of a Qatar state sovereign wealth fund, the Nine Two Foundation has not declared any explicit ties to the state.

Still others have taken to social media to express their relief that the club could finally be changing hands from its unpopular American owners. They couple that relief with an expectation that the move would mark a turnaround in the club’s trophy case, which had gone six years without adding to it until last month’s League Cup win.

They have welcomed promises to reinvest in the club and restore it to its former glory. For them it can be an investment that will help bring the club back to a top position.

Regarding the win for the State of Qatar, Griffin said the answer was simple:

“Qatar gets the association of one of the most glamorous football clubs in the world, a powerful brand, a multi-million dollar social media army and a global presence that cannot be priced.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button