UEFA will happily let a Qatari takeover bid for Manchester United pull the wool over their eyes as the deadline for expressions of interest in the Premier League club nears.
Under the governing body’s current rules, two clubs owned by the same individual or consortium cannot compete in the same competition – putting a potential bid for United from the Emir of Qatar, via his Qatari Sports Investment (QSI) outfit, in jeopardy.
It would have meant that the Red Devils and Qatar’s other state-owned club, PSG, could not play in the Champions League at the same time.
But UEFA are satisfied that the bid will come from a ‘separate entity’ to QSI – despite the fact that it will quite obviously be funded by the Emir himself.
It’s no coincidence that Qatari figurehead and PSG president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is a close acquaintance of UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin. The Swiss was the guest of honour of Al-Khelaifi at the Parisians’ Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
Interested parties have until 10pm on Friday to submit their bids for the club, who have been put up for sale by the Glazer family for a fee thought to be no less than £5 billion.
There could be a catch, however. Media reports suggest that the Qataris believe that the Glazers’ valuation of United is far too high, and they will instead table a £4 billion offer instead.
Who Will Buy Manchester United?
It remains to be seen whether such a lowly bid would be accepted, given that there is reportedly interest from a number of other suitors.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of the INEOS petrochemicals brand, is a lifelong Manchester United fan. He has hinted that he will be of the parties that lodges a takeover bid before Friday’s deadline, working alongside investment firms Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to get the necessary financing in place.
He too could fall foul of UEFA rules on multi-club ownership, given that he has a controlling stake in French club Nice. It’s not thought that will put him off bidding for United, however.
Thought to be the second richest man in the UK, Ratcliffe has an estimated net worth in excess of £17.5 billion – that has been bolstered by his decision to move his tax affairs to Monaco, saving him around £4 billion a year.
At the time of writing, no other parties have formally confirmed that they will be joining the bidding process. However, late last year, officials in Saudi Arabia hinted that they were planning to invest in another Premier League club – they would have to be able to prove to UEFA that the financing for any such bid came from a ‘separate entity’ to the Public Investment Fund that owns Newcastle United.
Tech giants Apple have also been rumoured to have shown an interest, while the Ricketts family – who own a number of sports franchises in America – were amongst the bidders for Chelsea last year.