What will the celebrations be like when the Glazers finally sell Manchester United? Perhaps thousands of fans will gather around the Holy Trinity at Old Trafford, while others might descend onto Deansgate, to dream about a more prosperous future.
It’s a moment supporters have longed for since the Glazers became majority shareholders in 2005, but for some, the moment the American family do eventually relinquish their hold on the club will be bittersweet and emotionally conflicting, if that sale brings the arrival of owners of the ilk of Qatar, who would consider United as merely a vehicle for a sportswashing project.
United announced in November they were ‘exploring strategic opportunities’ for the club, which could include selling it, and reports have now emerged that claim the Emir of Qatar is interested in buying the Glazers’ prized asset for £4.5billion.
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A Qatari-led takeover of United would be immensely controversial, to say the least, as there are no signs their nation will decriminalise same-sex relationships and concerns remain about their horrendous conditions and treatment for migrant workers.
Amnesty International, the world’s leading human rights organisation, has already criticised a potential Qatari-led takeover of United and they have claimed it would be a ‘sportswashing protect’ and a ‘wake-up call’ to the Premier League.
The links with a takeover from Qatar have intensified this week and they have already divided the fanbase. Some supporters have suggested they would walk away from the club if it happened, while others have fawned over the prospect.
This was to be expected, as the Manchester Evening News found out in December when launching a survey about the future of the club, in which almost 1,200 United fans, half from the UK and the remainder spread across the world, responded.
Although those who answered the survey unanimously agreed the Glazers should sell the club, the results showed overseas fans are much keener to get an oil state on board, while most UK fans would rather see a United-supporting owner taking control.
Three months after those survey results were published and that debate has spilt onto social media. There has been some horrific vitriol directed at those who do not want to see Qatar involved at Old Trafford, whilst other fans have criticised pro-Gulf state supporters for wanting to welcome that investment. Twitter has certainly not been a pleasant place.
The takeover question is a moral conundrum, which has understandably prompted division. In an ideal world, the Premier League would be free of such owners, but the genie was arguably let out of the bottle close to two decades ago.
The Premier League has sold its soul but it’s not the only entity to take that path. The UK government has relationships with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Facebook, Uber, Disney, Starbucks and BP have also accepted Saudi investment.
There is money from horrific sources everywhere in society and it’s down to the individual to decide whether they are alright with that extending to their football club. It’s a subjective matter and a certain answer is not necessarily right.
It’s a great shame that ordinary football fans have to deal with moral dilemmas like this. The bi-weekly pilgrimage to Old Trafford is the light in many a person’s life and the match should be about the football, not gulf states and sportswashing.
If a Qatari-led takeover was pushed through, a moment of celebration, with the Glazers finally leaving the club, would become a moment of heartbreak for some and that section of fans, who strongly feel that way, deserve better.
Any investment from Qatar will actually pose more uncomfortable questions than it will answer.
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