Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the chairman of one of Qatar’s largest banks, is the face of a bid framed as a “private” investment – but that claim falls apart under mild scrutiny.
When news broke of a bid to buy Manchester United from a largely unknown Qatari billionaire last Friday night, the battle lines were immediately drawn and the vicious abuse of anyone having the temerity to point out issues was dialled up to 11.
This has played out before, notably during Newcastle’s takeover by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in 2021 and in the run up to the Qatar World Cup. Yet United’s cache is so great that the scale of venom from nameless and faceless social media accounts appears unprecedented.
At its heart this is a battle for the future of one of the sport’s most famous clubs, a community asset for more than a century which millions care deeply about; but do they care about success or what the club has historically stood for? The answer to that depends on the resistance and concerns around the potential next owner.
Yet most of the vitriolic arguments against criticism of a potential Qatari takeover are easily debunked with gentle probing.
It’s not the Qatari state
Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the 40-year-old head of Qatar Islamic Bank who was unheard of to almost everyone outside Qatar five days ago, is the face of the bid and it has been framed as a “private” investment via a vehicle called the Nine Two Foundation.
He is the son of a former prime minister and a member of the royal family in a state where everything of substance is intrinsically linked to the emir. Having Sheikh Jassim as the face of the United offer is on the most basic level an attempt to convince UEFA that there is enough separation between Paris Saint-Germain’s ownership to allow both clubs to compete in the Champions