Ten years after Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City, the injection of money from the Middle East into English football has been hard to miss. The idea of football clubs as investment opportunities is no longer unusual, and the Middle East in particular has provided some of the most successful, but also divisive, football ownership.
Sport Industry Insider takes a look at some of the clubs in England and further afield with owners from the region.
City Football Group (Manchester City, New York City FC, Melbourne City, Yokohama F. Marinos, Girona FC)
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s purchase of a struggling Manchester City was just the start of an ambitious project that has transformed world football.
The 2008 deal made City the richest club in the world and set them on the path to domination. The club had played in the second tier of English football as recently as 2002, but won the Premier League title in 2012, 2014 and 2018.
The injection of money raised eyebrows in the English game but allowed City to bring in the players they wanted, not least Sergio Aguero. The striker joined for around £38m, at the time a club record, and has been the club’s top scorer every season since, memorably scoring in extra time on the final day of the season to secure the Premier League title in 2012.
But Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group soon gained influence far beyond Manchester City. The new City Football Group set up New York City FC and brought stakes in clubs in Australia, Japan and Spain.
This investment has not been without controversy. Allegations that City have flouted financial fair play rules have surfaced over recent months, and Amnesty International have added accusations that the club’s business partners have exploited human rights.
Qatar Sports Investments (Paris Saint-Germain)
In 2011 Paris Saint-Germain were an underperforming side with a successful history. The club’s takeover by Qatar Sports Investments led them quickly back to the top, however, and they have finished in the top two of Ligue 1 every season since.
The club spent €222m and broke transfer records in 2017 to sign Neymar from Barcelona. With the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also joining PSG since the takeover, the club has consolidated itself as a one of Europe’s leading sides.
Indeed, it is this investment in players that has seen PSG investigated by UEFA for fair play infringements. Meanwhile, Qatar Sports Investments have developed other ties with European football. The company was Barcelona’s shirt sponsors from 2011-13, while chairman of QSI and president of PSG, Nasser al-Khelaifi, also runs beIN Sport, which owns the media rights to Ligue 1.
Farhad Moshiri (Everton)
Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri bought a 49.9% stake in Everton in 2016 having previously owned a small stake in Arsenal. In September 2018 Moshiri increased his ownership to 68.6% and plans to own over three quarters of the club by the summer of 2019.
Moshiri’s investment in the club has helped them increase their transfer spending, but it is in the plans for a new stadium that Moshiri has the potential to hold the most influence. Everton’s proposed new home at Bramley-Moore Dock is expected to cost £500m, and with a controlling stake in the club Moshiri could be in a position to determine the future of Everton’s new home.
Assem Allam (Hull City)
Hull have bounced between the Premier League and the Championship for much of the eight years since Assem Allam bought the club.
Allam has had a difficult relationship with Hull fans. His failed attempt to rename the club as Hull Tigers in 2013 was a particularly low point, and Allam has made it clear he is hoping to sell the club on. Several deals have fallen through, while in October 2018 fans launched a £45m bid to takeover the club.
Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens (Aston Villa)
After 28 consecutive seasons in the top flight of English football, Aston Villa were relegated to the Championship in 2016. Financial problems followed and in July 2018 Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens bought a 27.5% stake in the club each, giving the pair majority control.
Although it is still early days in their ownership of the club, they have big ambitions.
“As lifelong football fans, we are excited and privileged to have become part of this great club,” they announced at the time of their purchase. “We believe that together we bring business and sports experience that will help strengthen the club to ensure Aston Villa can return to its rightful place in the upper echelons of English football.”
Prince Abdullah (Sheffield United)
Sheffield United’s owner Kevin McCabe sold half the club to Saudi Arabian Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2013. The club won promotion back to the Championship in 2017, but it is off the pitch that Prince Abdullah’s ownership is most notable.
Over recent months the relationship between the two co-owners has deteriorated and the pair ended up in court in the summer of 2018. McCabe has indicated that he could sell more of the club to Prince Abdullah. The battle for control of Sheffield United is still ongoing and could hinder the club’s transfer spending or other financial decisions.