A recent report by Bloomberg states that UK government officials have privately flagged concerns about Sheikh Jassim, one of the two public bidders for Manchester United.
Sheikh Jassim, along with Sir Jim Ratcliffe through his company INEOS, has gone through two rounds of bidding for the club. The third might follow soon. In such a scenario, the UK government’s concern could prove to be a potential stumbling block to any deal with Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim.
Newcastle had to go through a similar dragged process to prove their new owners weren’t linked to the Saudi Arabian government in any way.
Sheikh Jassim and Qatar- What’s the issue?
Qatar has been at the forefront of the footballing world since the hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Allegations of sports washing have been directed at the Gulf country.
Various human rights organisations have accused Qatar of using football as a tool of soft power to clean their image in the west, as well as hide the numerous human rights cases of abuse in their own country.
In such a scenario, Sheikh Jassim’s bid for Manchester United was always going to come under the microscope eventually.
Sheikh Jassim’s team has been keen to stress that his bid is non-related to the Qatari government and the state. However, he is the son of former Qatar PM Sheikh Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani.
Moreover, even though accurate details are not available, Sheikh Jassim’s net worth has been reported to be around £1.1 billion. Therefore, his bids of more than £5 billion already have come under scrutiny.
The Manchester United fanbase is also split between Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim. While the latter has promised to wipe out the debt of the club, along with investments in infrastructure and the first team, a section of fans are uncomfortable at their club being used as a sports washing vehicle, like they believe Manchester City is.
On the other hand, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s bid is less financially lucrative, thereby concerning fans about his ability to take United back to the top.
This recent development regarding Qatar and the potential intervention of UK government officials adds another layer to what is quickly becoming a dragged-out process with decreasing clarity.