GCC millions facilitating European football growth

UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are all helping the biggest clubs in European football function and grow.

Meryl D'Souza October 10, 2016

The summer transfer window is a big deal in club football. More often than not, it has the potential to make-or-break a club’s season. There are exceptions to the rule of course, like Leicester City’s triumph last season, but stories like that are few and far between.

For Arsenal fans, transfer windows are a peril. The club’s manager refuses to spend big on big names and hinders the club’s chances at winning the Premier League title. Even with the new three-year television deal – between the Premier League and Sky valued at £5.1 billion (AED 24.67bn) this season – the manager didn’t go all out to bring in enough quality players.

You can imagine the backlash. Where clubs like Manchester United spent £89 million on Paul Pogba, Arsenal spent about as much on three different players, only one of whom (Shkodran Mustafi) was a proven winner.

At the time, many passed off what he was saying as an excuse, but the second longest-serving Premier League manager of all time had a very astute assessment. Here’s what he said:

“In Europe you have two markets. One for the English clubs and one for the rest of Europe. The danger of the English situation at the moment is that the English clubs can suffocate themselves in the long term.

“Why? Because they buy players at a very high price. That means there are very high wages linked with it and if they are wrong, they will have these players with high wages who cannot move anywhere else.

“You start the first period now of English clubs having to pay massive wages. Even when the players go out, they have to pay their wages.

“In the long term, that will mean that the financial advantage the English clubs have will drop because they will be on their wage list. They pay for 10 or 12 players who have gone somewhere else because the clubs they go to cannot pay their wages.” 

Two months after he said that, it was revealed that Arsenal has more cash in the bank than Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich combined. Say what you will about the Frenchman, he knows how to save money.

The TV money has its advantages, though. Now, smaller clubs stand a chance to compete against the bigwigs of English football. Spreadex.com goes on to say that Premier League clubs have spent about £1.2 billion on transfers since the window opened on 1st July – or over £19 million per day. 

How the Middle East is helping European football

With the mind-numbing TV money figures, it’s easy to lose sight of just how much of a part the Middle East has played in making European football – the English Premier League in particular – more lucrative. 

Last season’s Repucom European Football Jersey Report states that UAE is the biggest investor when it comes to shirt sponsorships of the top six football leagues in Europe. The report claims that UAE spent close to AED 670m on shirt deals. Elsewhere, according to Deloitte’s report, six of the top 10 highest earning clubs in Europe have Middle East sponsorship ties.

  • Barcelona – Qatar Airways
  • Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal – Emirates
  • Manchester City – Etihad
  • Bayern Munich – Doha Airport

It’s natural for investors to flock to the bigger clubs, but it’s worth noting that Middle East millions have not been limited to the big names:

  • Iranian steel and energy tycoon Farhad Moshiri has acquired a controlling stake in Everton Football Club.
  • Football League Championship side Nottingham Forest is owned by Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Mubarak Al Hasawi.
  • League One side Sheffield United is partly owned by Prince Abdullah bin Musaed of Saudi Arabia.
  • Jordanian businessman Wael Al Qadri is the president of League One side Bristol Rovers.
  • Emirates renewed its deals with Hamburg SV and AC Milan until 2019 and 2020 respectively.

We’re certain we’ve missed a few there, but you get the point. In addition to all the mentioned investments, there are talks of Liverpool being the subject of a mega-money takeover by a UAE billionaire, and Qatar sponsoring Tottenham’s new stadium. So we can rest assured that the Arabian Gulf brands are not going away anytime soon.

We’ve touched upon how Arabs buying football clubs can be both good and bad, but if Arsene Wenger’s comments are anything to go by, the TV deal is a double-edged sword too. If anything, Arab millions could help even out the odds and make it a level playing field. After all, the last thing Europe – and the world – needs is an inflation epidemic.