The backstory: Qatar has a record of putting money into sports assets to boost its international profile and invest its wealth from natural resources. Since the oil-rich kingdom is done hosting the reportedly US$200 billion FIFA World Cup 2022, it's now turning its attention to some of the Premier League's top clubs.
More recently: Bloomberg reports the gulf nation is considering investing in the Premier League via Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). QSI has reportedly held talks with Tottenham Hotspur's chairman Daniel Levy about potentially purchasing a stake in the London club, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Tottenham, valued at just under 2 billion euros (US$2.1 billion), according to Football Benchmark, recently built a new stadium that fits over 60,000 people. On top of this, QSI could also be considering either a full takeover or a stake in Manchester United or Liverpool.
The development: While a spokesperson for QSI declined to comment, a Tottenham spokesman said the meeting never took place. Liverpool's owners are also rumored to be weighing a sale. But it's no secret that the American Glazer family, which owns Manchester United, has been searching for an investor and may be open to selling a minority stake in the club. There's a growing trend of investing in multiple football clubs, with over 200 teams having owners that are invested in different teams.
“You also need to invest in soft power, and the case of Qatar shows that this can work pretty well,” said Danyel Reiche, a visiting research fellow and associate professor at Georgetown University Qatar, to CNN, referring to Saudi Arabia as neighboring Qatar’s approach with sports.
“This World Cup in Qatar will indeed be remembered, for all the wrong reasons: as the most expensive sporting event ever – and the most deadly,” said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch, criticizing FIFA and Qatar on the treatment of migrant workers who helped deliver the World Cup.
“From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and passion about football,” said Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister to BBC Sport, referring to Saudi Arabia’s interest in football. “It’s the most-watched league in Saudi and the region and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League. We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom. But if there’s an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?”