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Qatari investors latest to be linked with Manchester United

Manchester United fans display banners in protest of the Glazer family’s ownership of the club Reuters/Carl Recine
Manchester United fans display banners in protest of the Glazer family’s ownership of the club

Investors from Qatar could be on the verge of a multi-billion dollar bid for English Premier League club Manchester United, according to newspaper reports.

Quoting unnamed sources, the UK’s Daily Mail said the investors were “a group of private, high wealth individuals” from Qatar.

It is unclear whether that would refer to Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), owners of French Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain.

QSI were linked to potential investments in United, rivals Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year. However, under Uefa regulations “no two clubs or more participating in a Uefa club competition may be directly or indirectly controlled by the same entity or managed by the same person”.

In January Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris, said Qatar’s reported plan to buy a Premier League football club is the natural next step for the host of the 2022 World Cup.

“Qatar needs to move on to the next stage of its plan for sport, in this case by scaling up investments and making their assets work harder for the country,” he said.

“Bottom-line financial considerations are important, though building interdependencies with external partners is more important.”

Dr Robert Butler, co-director of the Centre for Sports Economics and Law at University College Cork in Ireland, added: “I never thought the 2022 World Cup would be the end of Qatari interest in football.”

The Glazer family, who bought Manchester United in 2005, have been heavily criticised for their highly leveraged purchase and track record as owners – United’s net debt had reached £515 million ($620.42 million) by September last year.

The Glazers revealed in November that they were looking for new investment or to sell the club in its entirety.

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, named the richest man in the UK by Forbes, has also been named among potential suitors of the club. The 70-year-old owner of chemicals company INEOS has a net worth of £13 billion ($15.7 billion) and is a United supporter.

United were listed fourth in the 26th edition of the global Deloitte Football Money League. The club made revenues of $739.45 million in 2022, up 23 percent year-on-year. This included $332 million accumulated through commercial activities, €273 million through the club’s share of broadcasting rights, and €135 million from match day revenues.

United are currently third in the English Premier League and play Newcastle United, who are part-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in the final of the League Cup at the end of this month.