The Qatari owners of PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) are looking at the possibility of acquiring a stake in a Premier League club. Exploratory talks have already been held with Tottenham Hotspur, whilst both Manchester United and Liverpool are both actively looking for new investors.
Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) is a subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, and the revenue that it generates are ploughed back into the country’s sports, leisure and entertainment sectors.
Since 2011, it has been headed by Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a former tennis player, the same year that they acquired the Ligue 1 side, Paris Saint-Germain. That made PSG the richest club in the world (now superseded by Newcastle) and QSI’s backing enabled them to bankroll signing a host of top stars, include Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, and Lionel Messi.
Dominant in France, the biggest prize on the European stage continues to elude them – they have yet to win the Champions League.
Qatar interest in football
It was widely assumed that with the World Cup now concluded, the Qatari interest in football would now begin to recede. However, the opposite now appears to be the case, perhaps because the revenues it generates at the top of the sport are so enticing.
QSI already have a minority stake in the Portuguese side Braga, but they want to go beyond that.
More than 300 clubs around the globe are part of multi-ownership groups.
Perhaps the best known of this is the City Football Group whose portfolio includes Manchester City, New York City, Melbourne City and Girona FC. They also have interests in clubs in Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Uruguay, India, and Bolivia.
The rationale for such groupings is both commercial and sporting. Acquiring multiple clubs helps expand brand recognition and value, and it also provides a conduit for the development and transfer of players.
Manchester City, for example, regularly sent some of their young players out on loan to one of their sister clubs, ensuring that they get regular game time once they get there.
It also offers up the possibility of transfers between the various clubs, either on a temporary or permanent basis, without the complex negotiations with agents and other third parties that often attend other player moves.
Potential Premier League targets
Both the current owners of Liverpool and Manchester United announced at the end of last year that they were looking for outside investors.
The two teams currently have American owners – Liverpool are owned by Fenway Sports Group (FSG) whilst United are in the hands of the Glazer family.
FSG are looking to sell because they realise they have taken the club as far as they can, whilst the Glazer family have bowed to public pressure. They are widely disliked by the United fan base for the way they have burdened the club with debt, and how much they continue to take out in dividends, whilst starving the side of investment.
The majority owners of Tottenham Hotspur are ENIC Sports which acquired their stake in the club in 2001 from Lord Alan Sugar.
ENIC have heavily invested in the facilities at Tottenham, building them world class training facilities and a state of the art new stadium.
But the club has not won a major trophy since 2008, and ENIC, and their chairman, Daniel Levy have been heavily criticised by sections of the fan base in recent months.
They believe that ENIC does not appear to have a clear strategy for how to take the club forward, and also that their communication strategy leaves a lot to be desired.
Not necessarily a good thing for the League
If QSI does acquire a minority stake in one of the major Premier League teams, such as Liverpool, United or Spurs, that is not necessarily a good thing for the rest of the clubs in the league, because it will only increase the disparity between the haves and the have nots.
They will not only be able to compete in the market for all the best players, but also match their considerable salary expectations. Although the European Super League (ESL) was widely derived when it was announced – all three clubs were initially part of the failed project – cynics might argue that moves like the PSG investment are its realisation by stealth.
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