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Qatar’s next big match: a Premier League club to call its own

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé went head to head in the World Cup final as PSG players Photo by Naoki Morita/Aflo SPORT
Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé went head to head in the World Cup final as PSG players
  • Qatar Sports Investment ‘has held talks with Tottenham Hotspur’
  • QSI already owns French champions Paris Saint-Germain
  • English giants Liverpool and Manchester United might be up for grabs

Qatar’s reported plan to buy a Premier League football club is the natural next step for the host of the 2022 World Cup, sports business analysts have told AGBI.

Less than a month after Argentina lifted the Fifa trophy at the Lusail stadium, Qatar Sports Investment is said to be turning its attentions to English football. QSI already owns the French champions Paris Saint-Germain and has a minority stake in Portuguese top-flight club Braga.

CBS Sports reported on Sunday that QSI chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi had held exploratory talks with Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy, although this was later denied by the North London club. An emailed response to Reuters said: “There is no truth in reports that a meeting took place regarding the sale of equity in the club.”

Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at SKEMA Business School in Paris, said the priorities that had underpinned Doha’s bid to stage the World Cup still applied – “specifically the need to strategically secure the country and to diversify it away from a dependence upon gas and oil revenues”.

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

Chadwick said an investment in Tottenham Hotspur was far from a “done deal”, however. “There are currently numerous willing sellers, hence we should anticipate QSI exploring opportunities across the Premier League and Europe more generally, before making any decisions.”

Two of English football’s most famous and successful clubs – Liverpool and Manchester United – might also be up for grabs.

Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s American owner, has expressed a desire to seek new shareholders and has not ruled out a sale of the club. The Glazer family, who bought Manchester United in 2005, have been heavily criticised for their highly leveraged purchase and track record as owners. The Glazers revealed last November that they were looking for new investment or to sell the club in its entirety.

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

He added that QSI’s Premier League plans would depend “on the objectives of the potential owners. Generally, there are two economic models for sports teams: win-maximisers and profit-maximisers. There are examples of both in the Premier League in recent years but investment from the Middle East has tended to adopt the former.” 

He added: “If QSI are determined to win the sporting competition, Liverpool and Manchester United are natural suitors. If the objective is to profit-maximise, most Premier League teams are a good fit.”

QSI first invested in PSG in 2011 and took control of the French giants the following year, valuing the club at €100 million ($107.5 million). Qatar has since spent more than $1.2 billion on transfers, assembling a superstar forward line of Brazil’s Neymar, France’s Kylian Mbappé and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

Since the summer, QSI has sought new investment in PSG through the sale of a 15 percent stake. Discussions have taken place based on a €4 billion ($4.3 billion) valuation of the club, according to the Financial Times.

Some 1.4 million people visited Qatar during the month-long World Cup, which ended with Messi and Mbappé going head to head in a dramatic final on December 18. Attendances averaged about 53,000 a match, according to the Qatar News Agency. 

Premier League clubs with Mena owners

Aston Villa NSWE, a consortium set up by Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and American investor Wes Edens, bought a controlling stake in the Birmingham club in 2018

Manchester City Bought by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. Owner Sheikh Mansour has invested an estimated $2 billion, but has been rewarded with four Premier League titles in the past five seasons

Newcastle United Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, completed its £300 million ($365 million) takeover of the club in 2021

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