Call on UEFA to protect competition integrity

Qatari state takeover of Manchester United would strengthen autocrats’ grip on the game

FairSquare has written to UEFA to call on European football’s governing body to outline a clear public position prohibiting a Qatari state takeover of Manchester United. 

In a 14 February letter, FairSquare outlined why no consortium of Qatari investors capable of such an acquisition would be able to convincingly demonstrate their independence from the Qatari state, and thus that they were separate from the ownership of Paris Saint Germain. A copy of the letter was sent to the Premier League. Details of the Qatari bid for the club were confirmed on 17 February.

This would contravene the obligations of member associations to ensure the integrity of competitions as laid out in article 7bis (5) of UEFA’s Statutes:

“Member Associations shall ensure that neither a natural nor a legal person (including holding companies and subsidiaries) exercises control or influence over more than one of their clubs whenever the integrity of any match or competition organized at Member Association level could be jeopardized. Member Associations shall include such an obligation in their statutes and lay down the necessary implementing provisions.”

UEFA’s Statutes are very clear on the critical importance of ensuring that no single party can exercise control or influence over more than one club, and this is all the more important when the owners are states. UEFA must uphold the same rules for its competitions as it does for its member associations.

State ownership of European football clubs jeopardises the integrity of the game, its proclaimed values and its sustainability. Any attempt by UEFA to change its rules to facilitate joint ownership of multiple clubs would hand the keys of European club football to autocratic states characterised by repression and the absence of the rule of law, and in the specific case of Qatar, one that currently stands accused of seeking to corrupt Europe’s democratic institutions.

FairSquare opposes any and all state ownership of football clubs, and has drawn attention to the risks such takeovers pose to democratic institutions. In 2020 FairSquare called on the Premier League to disqualify the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United, in line with the requirements of its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.