By Tony Attwood
At the heart of everything in this story is Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Wherever one goes, his name pops up. To give a quick summary he is chairman of beIN Media Group (60 channels in 43 countries), chairman of Qatar Sports Investments, (you don’t have to have heard of that to know what it might be all about) and president of Paris Saint-Germain (who you have heard about even if you don’t follow French football).
So let me add a word about Qatar Sports Investments. It exists to buy up sports events and sports clubs. That’s it. It is financed by a $335 billion sovereign wealth fund, and (you might want to sit down to read the next bit) is one of the biggest landowners in the UK owning among many other places, The Shard, Claridges, Chelsea Barracks, Elephant and Castle, the American Embassy (!), the Savoy, Harrods, Canary Wharf…
QSI spent about $300 billion on the stadiums and surrounding areas ahead of the 2022 world cup – more than was spent on every single previous World Cup and Olympics put together.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi is chair of the biggest sports investment body in the world which owns its own array of sports TV channels and was at the heart of taking the world cup to Qatar. And it owns PSG with Nasser Al-Khelaifi as chairman of the board and Chief Executive of the club.
Between 2013 and 2022 (that’s 10 years according to a quick tally on my fingers) PSG won the French league eight times. Prior to the takeover PSG had won the French league twice in its entire history.
But of course owning a club is nothing if you can’t get your story out to the adoring public so at the end of 2013 what used to be Al Jazeera became beIN Sport employing Richard Keys and Andy Grey to spout misogynistic claptrap in the name of football. BeIN Sports now has 22 channels
In October 2017, the Swiss courts started to investigate Nasser Al-Khelaifi on “suspicion of corruption in the allocation of TV television rights for the World Cups 2026 and 2030 for the Middle East and North Africa” along with aggravated criminal mismanagement. He was found not guilty.
As we have mentioned before after PSG were beaten by Real Madrid in 2022 it was reported that Al-Khelaifi assaulted a linesman and threatened a Madrid employee with murder. Uefa investigated and cleared him.
He is now leading an attempt by Qatar to buy Manchester United which is interesting since Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin is a close friend. And it would be Ceferin who would decide if Qatar can own two big European clubs.
Now as we have often reported, PSG was the only one of the major clubs not to be involved in the first move towards setting up a Super League, although there is argument over whether PSG were invited and turned the idea down, or were deliberately not invited because of their close association with Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is chair of the European Club Association and thus closely linked to Uefa.
Of course what could have happened at any time since Qatar bought PSG is that questions would be asked about PSG’s funding, and the viability of the French league where one club wins the league 90% of the time. And about the correctness of the same sovereign wealth fund owning different clubs around the world.
From there it would be a simple task to ask if the growth in power and dominance of Qatari money in European and indeed world football, all focussed through one man, who himself is closely associated with Uefa, is a good idea.
Clearly, the British press either haven’t thought about this conundrum (which is quite possible) or actually don’t mind European football being dominated by Qatar, or have been bribed to keep quiet (I have no evidence to that effect of course – I don’t move in such circles). What we do know is that the English press were very restrained to the point of invisibility in criticising Qatar and the world cup.
But now the battle lines are drawn. The new Super League proposal for Europe very much does NOT include PSG and Uefa, and so shakes off the dominance of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG and beIN.
However if the English media’s view prevails and the new four-division non-Uefa, non-Qatari finance Super League across Europe does not include English clubs, then the alliance between England and Qatar will be sealed, and in terms of football finance, English clubs will be subject to the rule and dominance of Qatar.
Of course it can be argued that with half of the clubs in the Premier League owned by people and organisations based in the USA, ownership by another country doesn’t really matter. And if that is your view then fine.
But if not, it might be worth considering what does lie behind the media’s desire to pull faces at the new Super League proposal. Not being in Super League would not just leave England standing alone, it almost certainly will leave the English league in the hands of Qatar, and in the slimmed-down arms of a neutered Uefa.
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