After months of seemingly never-ending meetings and bids, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani’s attempt to purchase Manchester United football has unravelled.
According to The Athletic, The Qatari’s £5 billion bid for 100% of the club has been outmanoeuvred by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s £1.3bn for a 25% stake. The INEOS owner’s bid has yet to be agreed and approved by the board however Sheikh Jassim has seemingly admitted defeat by publicly withdrawing his offer on the 15th of October.
Adam Crafton, the author of piece, states that Jassim’s bid for total control of the football club could never really convince the club due to the Glazers’ belief that there is huge untapped financial growth at Manchester United.
During meetings in March between potential investors and the club, the American family claimed that by 2027, the Mancunian football team could be generating 1bn pounds in revenue from improved commercial, broadcast and matchday revenue. Their optimism lies in an enhanced Champions League broadcast package available from next year and additionally the creation of a new-look FIFA Club World Cup.
The Athletic writer states that while it is not unusual for companies to be over-ambitious when pitching to investors, the fact that they were emboldened to turn down a full control package of less than their suggested asking price of £6.5bn alludes to the fact they really do believe in this potential growth.
Another factor why the Qatari bid was unsuccessful is potentially the involvement of his father Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani (HBJ in diplomatic circles). Jassim’s father was the former deputy head of Qatar´s sovereign fund and Qatar Investment Authority. Crafton also states that HBJ is known to drive a hard bargain and maintains a scepticism that investments in major football clubs yield significant returns.
Even though representatives of the Qatari bid always stressed their unattachment to the Qatari state, many sources in Doha find this unlikely. They claim that there is no way such a large scale, public bid could be made without the Qatari political establishment giving it the rubber stamp of approval.
Resultingly, Sheikh Jassim’s bid also had to live with public criticism. FairSquare, a human rights research group, wrote to UEFA and the Premier League asserting that “a basic study of Qatari’s political and economic system amply demonstrates the impossibility of Qatari Consortium providing itself independent of state influence”.
Additionally, Amnesty International has also called out the bid as attempted sports washing while LGBQT groups also criticised the potential sale of the club to a group so connected with the Middle Eastern state.
This begs the question, what will Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation or indeed the Qataris do next? The Athletic article puts forward the notion that Sheikh Jassim will not entertain the idea of investing in another Premier League club due to his support of Manchester United. Although only time will tell if this is true.
The Qatari Investment Authority has already explored investment opportunities in Tottenham and has already bought a 5% stake in Monumental Sports and Entertainment which owns the Washington Wizards NBA team. The group is also in the premature stages of investing in the Los Angeles sport and entertainment industries.
One of the reasons the state of Qatar is so heavily involved in investment talks is due to the challenging world outlook the country faces while being so dependent on the sale of gas. Therefore, like their Middle Eastern neighbours, they want to diversify their economy through seeking opportunities to invest in endeavours such as financial institutions, real estate and technology.
Simultaneously in the sporting sphere, they have already won the rights to the Asian Football Cup in 2024 and the Asian Games in 2030. The state has also won a slot on the F1 calendar. Furthermore, they have plans in place to bid for the 2036 Olympic Games either alone or in a joint bid with Saudi Arabia.
Increasingly it seems Manchester United are out of reach for Sheikh Jassim and Qatar but in a sporting context, they have most likely just begun.