could Qatari investors realistically buy the club?

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Is United about to get Qatari owners?

According to Wednesday’s Daily Mail, a group of “individual Qatari investors” will soon make a bid for Manchester United, England’s 20-time champions. Qatar’s offer, the Mail claimed, would “blow the competition out of the water”. Qatar’s interest in United has been confirmed by the Guardian, with Jamie Jackson reporting that the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is interested in buying the club. He won’t blow anyone out of the water, however, and instead believes a £4.5bn valuation of United is fair, which is below the £6bn mark the Glazer family, who have owned United since 2005, are aiming for. reportedly looking for.

How likely is it that the offer will become reality?

It depends if there is one Qatari bid or two. No one on the Qatar side denies that the Gulf state is exploring investment opportunities in football beyond owning Paris Saint-Germain and a stake in Portugal’s SC Braga. Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud, the CEO of the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, confirmed this in Davos last month. “You won’t be surprised if we invest in this [football]England is of particular interest, but whether United are the right club and whether a full takeover is the right deal remains to be seen. Mischievous sources even suggest that news of Qatari interest has surfaced as the Glazers have trouble getting to sell the club and to eliminate bids.

Who else is in the running to buy United?

With the Glazers setting a self-imposed mid-February deadline for initial offerings, only one is currently in the public domain. Ineos, the petrochemical and fracking giant owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a lifelong United fan and British tax exile, announced last month that it had “formally put ourselves into the process”. There are rumors of interest from US investment groups, with the Sixth Street firm reportedly interested in a minority stake in the club. In a statement, Sixth Street, who have financed financial restructuring at Real Madrid and Barcelona, ​​said they “had no intention of buying Manchester United and… are not in active talks to do so.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Lifelong fan Sir Jim Ratcliffe is keen to buy Manchester United. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Could there be a problem with UEFA?

If and when a bid from Qatar succeeds in taking over United, there are bound to be questions to be answered. First and foremost, UEFA will have to determine whether United’s owners are sufficiently distinct from PSG’s owners to avoid the risk of sporting collusion if the two face each other in European competition. UEFA’s rules read: “No natural or legal person may control or influence more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition.” The governing body defines control as having a majority shareholding in a club, the ability to appoint or dismiss senior staff members or “being able to exercise decisive influence over the club’s decision-making in any way”. It is this last clause that seems most significant.

Is there a way to work around the problem?

PSG is owned by Qatar Sports Investment (QSI), which could not acquire more than a minority stake in United. But QSI, in turn, is funded by QIA and if another company under the QIA umbrella, for example the Qatar National Bank, made a bid, the same restrictions might not apply. These would be difficult considerations for UEFA and its Club Financial Control Body (CFCB). A possible precedent can be found in the decision to allow Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig both to play in the 2017/18 Champions League. Both parties are owned by the energy drink manufacturer, Red Bull GmbH, and UEFA investigators found that the company exerted a strong influence over both clubs. However, the CFCB found that there were insufficient reasons to believe that there was influence between the two clubs after certain staff members were linked to Red Bull and leases between the teams were removed.

So a Qatari takeover of United is feasible?

Never say never in football, and in the interest of completion it should be noted that Nasser al-Khelaifi, President of PSG and QSI Chairman, is on the Executive Committee of UEFA and Aleksander Ceferin, the President of UEFA , was described as a “a great man” who respects “football and its values” after PSG withstood the siren of the European Super League. Ceferin thanked Khelaifi “from the bottom of my heart” for taking that stand.

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