UEFA urged to block UnitedQatari takeover to save game
A letter urging UEFA to block a Qatari takeover of Manchester United has been sent to the governing body’s president, Alexander Cerefin, citing concerns about “the integrity of the game.”
United’s owners, the Glazer family, put the club up for sale in November, and a number of bids are expected by the deadline of February 17, among the potential bidders is a Qatari group, with the emir of the middle-eastern country said to be keen to own both United and Paris Saint-Germain through separate operating companies.
Qatar Sports Investment has owned PSG since 2012, but UEFA rules prevent two clubs with shared ownership taking part in the same competition, such as the Champions League. It has been claimed that the European football governing body would be prepared to green-light a sale to Qatari bidders, but FairSquare – which describes itself as a non-profit human rights research and advocacy group – has put pressure on Ceferin, as the bid deadline is getting near.
“A basic study of Qatar’s political and economic system amply demonstrates the impossibility of any Qatari consortium proving itself independent of state influence, and thus separate from the ownership of PSG,” the letter reads, as first reported by The Athletic.
“Freedom House’s World Freedom Index classifies Qatar as ‘not free’, and its most recent assessment is highly critical of Qatar’s record on the rule of law, corruption, and political participation: ‘Qatar’s hereditary emir holds all executive and legislative authority, and ultimately controls the judiciary.’
“UEFA’s Statutes are very clear on the critical importance of ensuring that no single party can exercise control or influence over more than one club, and this is all the more important when the owners are states. State ownership of European football clubs jeopardises the integrity of the game, its proclaimed values and its sustainability.”
There is some precedent when it comes to clubs in UEFA competitions having overlapping ownership. RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg have an owner in common in the form of Red Bull GmbH, but were allowed to face off against one another in the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League.
The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is understood to be exploring the United bid through his Qatar Investment Authority vehicle. However, other potential bidders remain in the mix, as US firm Raine Group oversees the sale with the Glazers seeking a multi-billion sum for the club.
A Saudi-backed group is also in contention, while billionaire Twitter chief, Elon Musk, is said to be monitoring the situation despite previously playing down interest in a bid. Then there is Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos chief and Britain’s richest man and a United supporter, who made clear his stance earlier in the bidding process. — MirrorOnline