Qatar’s involvement in soccer has been a long-withstanding affair. They acquired the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 back in 2010
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is in talks of investing in a trio of major sports leagues in the United States. Such a massive stake sale to an outsider is certainly noteworthy. This can increase the influence of Qatar in Washington and can possibly amend the trajectory of US sports.
The first whistleblower about this developing deal was a US news outlet Sportico, which reported last month that the Qatar Investment Authority might purchase around a 5% ownership stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment in a deal worth over $4.5 billion.
Monumental is the company that owns Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics in the National Basketball Association (NBA). It is also the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and The National Hockey League (NHL) parent company.
Mike Bass, the NBA spokesperson, said that the NBA Board of Governors had approved the sale of a passive minority stake in the teams to any foreign institutional investor, foreign or domestic pension funds, university endowment, or sovereign wealth funds, as per the set guidelines of that time.
He added that the NBA Board is looking after the investment from the QIA in Monumental Sports & Entertainment. In the future, if the board approves, then the QIA will hold a docile, minority stake with no interference in the operations or say in the decisions making. As of the NHL, the investment has already been approved, and both the leagues, NBA and WNBA, will look into the deal and announce their judgment later on.
The Middle East would gain substantial power in the world of football and, more importantly, the US sports if the QIA deal succeeds. The Gulf has poured loads of money into getting a foothold in association football or soccer. Recently, Saudi Arabia brought Cristiano Ronaldo to their home club Al Nassr. Back in 2011, Qatar Sports Investments bought a majority stake in the European club Paris Saint-Germain based out of Paris.
Qatar’s involvement in soccer has been a long-withstanding affair. They acquired the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 back in 2010. Qatar Airways has been sponsoring Bayern Munich from Germany for multiple years. Emirates Airlines has been financing another European football club, Arsenal FC. The Saudi Public Investment Fund took over Newcastle United in 2021. There are talks of the interest of Qatari royal Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani in the purchase of the English football club Manchester United for well more than $6 billion.
After the surprising merger of the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s LIV Golf and the US-based PGA Tour last month, a lot of future investment in international sports was anticipated from the Middle East. But Qatar came out of the blue with another shocking move rattling the sports industry in the US. If the deal goes through, it will be a win for Qatar amidst all the allegations of a probable undue influence in US sports, human rights violations, labour exploitations, and much more. As said, only money matters in America, and the LIV and PGA deal spoke for it, which faced similar criticisms on the same grounds.
Saudi Arabia has opened its coffer to invest in a variety of sectors all across the globe with the aim of economic diversification and reducing dependency on its crude revenues. In the footsteps of its arch-rival Qatar hosting the World Cup last year, the Saudi Kingdom has been connected with a bid to obtain the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2030. They will be hosting the Asian Cup in 2027.
Saudi Pro League has recently signed major international soccer players, with the very recent signing of Chelsea N’Golo Kante. Apart from soccer, they are putting effort into conducting professional tennis tournaments for men and women.
Apart from such sports investment, Qatar is in talks for the not so likeable topics. A former player of the NFL, Representative Colin Allred (D-Texas), has called Qatar’s purchase of a stake in Monumental an extreme form of high-profile lobbying. It is rumoured that Qatar might use these investments as a future strategy to cultivate military and government ties on the sidelines of connecting with politicians, business leaders, and lobbyists. They might probably discuss military and energy deals while hosting their high-profile guests in presidential suites during the games.
The Gulf investments are called the turn of tables for investments moving from the East to the West. The pending Qatar stake purchase in Monumental is an example of foreign direct investment moving the other way around. A sports management professor at Georgetown University tweeted recently that if someone is not comfortable with the investments taking a U-turn, then they need to get over it.