How Could Qatari Club Ownership Affect the Premier League?
Out of major stakeholders in Premier League clubs, only Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle United have wealthier owners than Tottenham Hotspur, with Joe Lewis who owns over 70% of the north London club having a wealth of over £4.9 billion, compared to the £4.4 billion of the Glazers (Manchester United) and £4 billion of Stan Kroenke (Arsenal). However, with Tottenham’s owners viewing the club as a business acquisition which must create profit, opposed to creating a European super-power, this has ultimately left the club in a period of stagnation and underachievement.
Whilst reports last year suggested that the north London club were up for sale at a figure of £1 billion, there were only a few parties who were seen to be able to afford Spurs, with the Qatari government being labelled as one of the suitors. As has been shown by Qatari investment in Paris Saint-Germain, the aim of their purchase would be to create a franchise, similar to that of Manchester City and their partner clubs in New York and Melbourne, which has attracted talents such as David Villa and Frank Lampard. The Ligue 1 Champions were purchased for only $130 million, but heavy investment in players has led to the rising expectation that Laurent Blanc can lead his side to European glory by 2016, and successfully accomplish the five-year plan which was implemented when it was purchased.
Although with Paris Saint-Germain already being owned by Qatari officials, it could pose a potential problem for Tottenham Hotspur. This is because a Premier League club cannot have an owner if they already own more than 9.9% of another Premier League team, and simultaneously there are laws which prevent the same owner for having more than one club in the same European competition. This fundamental law has proved to be a stumbling block for Mike Ashley who has tried to grow his influence at Rangers, whilst owning Newcastle United. Whilst Qatar Sports Investment already own Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the President of the French club, and no doubt there will be ways for the Qatari officials to find another businessman to head the consortium should they pursue their reported interest in Tottenham Hotspur which could allow the two sides to compete against one another in the Champions League, or if they don’t, the deal would not be allowed to go ahead.
Of course with Financial Fair Play, it could be questioned how Tottenham could fund a Manchester City-like revolution. Despite the increased funds from TV rights which gives the north London club an advantage, there are also talks of an NFL franchise being created at the new home of Spurs once the new 56,000 seated stadium is completed which could further entice Qatari owners to invest, and if this fails, Tottenham could rely on shirt sponsorship and stadium naming rights. At PSG, the Qatari Tourism board pays the club around £160 million a year, although this sum was investigated by UEFA as it was deemed disproportionate to the amount of money the deal should be worth. However, with the owner of the Parisian club also owning biEN Sport who broadcasts their games, some wealth is accumulated from this avenue. If this fails, the naming rights for the new Tottenham stadium could be auctioned off to create extra money.
It has also been explored that Qatari Airways could invest in Tottenham, if not the government, with the company owned by the Royal Family looking to boost their profile ahead of the 2022 World Cup, and could explore having dual stadium and shirt sponsorship rights.
Interestingly, when PSG was invested into, Qatar also pumped money into the social projects in the surrounding Paris districts, a scheme which is also being adopted at Tottenham in the regeneration development project for the area. Not only does this create a positive image for the Qatari officials, it also helps to strengthen the Gulf nation’s international communication with the Western world, something which is desperately needed ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Al Ani, the Sports Minister at Qatar, told The Sun over a month ago: “Of course Qatar wants to own a Premier League club. One hundred per cent.
“Here in Qatar we are very, very good in taking something and really transforming it into something very, very good. Even if it’s good we take it to another step.
Personally speaking, I like the English Premier League. Since I was young I have jerseys. I'm not going to tell you which clubs -- I said it once and the guy was upset with me because he was an Arsenal ... I like all jerseys of Tottenham and I had two of them."
But how would Qatari ownership potentially affect the Premier League?
Of course excluding the potential of bringing in more world-class talent and creating another title-challenger, Tottenham would have increased wealth to play with and invest with the hope of becoming Champions League regulars. Between the revenue of Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, there is over £135 million difference between Spurs and the current Premier League leaders, who are also generate more income than the two other teams. But when you consider the potential expansion generated by a new stadium, stadium naming rights and the absence of Champions League football for Tottenham, these factors could create long-term economic stability for a club who often underachieve. With this foundation in place, it would create an environment where failure would no longer be accepted, as economic gain could help Tottenham finally break into the riches of the Champions League and maybe even a Premier League title.
Written by Matt Davis