Why I'm concerned about potential Qatari Investment in Arsenal
By Jahid Islam
Hello, readers of We Love You Arsenal! I’m Jahid (@MadAboutMari), and this week’s article focuses in on the recent interest in the club from the Qatari Sports Investment Authority (QSI). If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, these are the same guys who own PSG and are closely associated with the Qatari Royal Family. And whilst PSG has grown into a European juggernaut under the control of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, I’m not so sure that letting the Qatari Royal Family, who rule over a nation with countless human rights transgressions, is a great idea. On Twitter, Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari Royal Family, has been name-dropping Arsenal and inputting his opinion into almost every single thing around the club. He can’t get our name out of his mouth. A bit like an obsessed ex, really. I’m talking about you, Amy. Leave me alone. IT’S BEEN 2 YEARS. Anyway, with the huge financial backing behind the Qataris thanks to their unfathomably immense oil reserves, they’re definitely able to afford to buy the club from The Kroenke’s. The Royal Family is worth somewhere in the region of £250 billion, according to numerous sources. They’ve also shown a willingness to take what they’ve learnt from owning Les Parisiens and applying that in a more competitive league with international commercial exposure. And I have to say, the Premier league is a way more commercially appealing prospect than Ligue Un. ‘Pardonne moi’, French football fans. There are a few issues with this proposed takeover, however. Firstly, there’s the issue about the sponsorship of our kits. According to a BBC News article written by Bob Wilson in February 2018: “The Emirates name will feature on the shirts and kit of all Arsenal teams until the end of the 2023-24 season.”
To be frankly honest, I don’t think this is that big of an issue. Whilst QSI love to slap their brands on their clubs (think ‘Ooredoo’, ‘QNB’, and ‘Qatar Airways’), they’ll probably do the same at Arsenal. It might cost them a pretty penny to prematurely terminate the ‘Emirates’ sponsorship deal we’ve had since 2006 but, as we’ve mentioned before, they’re absolutely loaded. It might be a bit weird to rename our stadium something like ‘The Qatar Airways Arena’, but we’ve sold out in the past so there’s no harm in renaming it to whatever brand QSI want. Here’s the much more concerning problem, however. Qatar’s abhorrent human rights record. Lighthearted jokes will have to take a backseat for the next few paragraphs. The blatant human rights violations by the Qatari Royal Family, who bankroll the Qatari Sports Investment Authority, in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup being held in the Middle Eastern nation, have been reported by numerous human rights groups around the world. Amnesty International wrote a brilliant article on this topic, titled the ‘Qatar World Cup of Shame’. Within the article, they talk about how 1.7 million migrant workers from south-east Asia are being exploited during the construction of the ‘Khalifa Stadium’ through horrendous living conditions, forced labour, travel restrictions, and threats of intimidation by their employers. It makes for harrowing reading, and paints the allure of Qatari ownership in a whole different shade of disgust. Whilst QSI don’t directly abuse these workers, the sub-contractors that they’ve hired do, and are able to get away with these blatant human rights offences due to the safeguards offered by the Qatari Royal Family. Those same people facilitating this environment of abuse operate QSI, and the unethical nature of their business has to be considered before getting excited over them expressing interest in Arsenal. No billionaire’s perfect. In fact, most of them have done some fucked up things. The Kroenke’s aren’t any different and even Daniel Ek, the Spotify guy who’s seemingly disappeared after making lofty promises about ‘fan representation’ and whatnot, has come under fire for not paying independent artists their fair share on his platform. However, there’s an implicit difference between paying artists less than they deserve and forced labour. In my opinion, and by clicking on this article you did ask for it, that’s a line that can’t be crossed. Not for money, trophies, or all the glory in the world. Call me silly, naive, foolhardy, or any manner of expletive you fancy. Studying A-Level Philosophy and Ethics probably made me overthink the ethical value of everything. But what I am sure about, is that even if the QSI acquire Arsenal Football Club, any success we have will be tinged by the human rights abuses by our prospective owners. And you know how the media like to turn the screws against us. Not to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist. One saving grace is the fact that we’ve had huge success even before major foreign investment. That’s one thing that differentiates us from the likes of Man City, Chelski and PSG. But in a world in which it’s virtually impossible to find morally good owners, finding the least reprehensible ones becomes more and more difficult. I’ve been Jahid (@MadAboutMari) for We Love You Arsenal. Sorry for the slightly depressing tone of this week’s piece, but I’ll see you again next week for a hopefully more light-hearted piece! Ba-bye!