For better or worse? Questions for Tottenham over Qatari interest

For better or worse? Questions for Tottenham over Qatari interest

A partnership between Tottenham and Qatar would raise familiar and uncomfortable questions for the club's supporters and English football, but may suit both parties' medium- to long-term aims.

Standard Sport has been told Spurs chairman Daniel Levy met Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the Paris Saint-Germain president and chairman of Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), in a London hotel last week, with discussions over a minority stake in Spurs on the agenda. They are claims that the club denies.

After what they perceived to be an enormously successful World Cup, the Qataris are eager to expand their sports portfolio and want to replicate the multi-club model being championed by Manchester City's Abu Dhabi ownership.

QSI has already bought 22 per cent of Portuguese club Braga — in a deal believed to be worth around £80million in October — and is now turning its attention to other major European leagues.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. (Getty Images)
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. (Getty Images)

Liverpool and Manchester United are both openly courting a buy-out and would appear a more oven-ready proposition than Spurs, but QSI is not interested in taking a majority stake in a club, potentially making the north London outfit a better fit.

The Qataris have no interest in relinquishing their control of PSG, and UEFA rules prohibit clubs who could meet in European competition sharing majority owners.

Spurs cannot match the recent success of Liverpool and United, but are nonetheless a hugely attractive proposition, with a growing global fanbase, a state-of-the-art training ground and, arguably, the world's best stadium — at least outside Qatar itself. In Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, the club boasts two world-class players and icons, and Antonio Conte is one of Europe's most successful domestic coaches.

For his part, Levy may be attracted by selling a minority stake in Spurs, allowing current owner ENIC to retain a majority holding and the 60-year-old to remain as chairman, while freeing up precious funds to keep the pace with their wealthier rivals.

In November 2021, Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky bought a 27 per cent stake in West Ham in a deal believed to be worth up to £200m, with David Sullivan and the late David Gold remaining as co-chairmen, and the Hammers subsequently spent over £160m in the summer on seven new signings, including Brazil midfielder Lucas Paqueta.

ENIC injected £150m into Spurs over the summer, a fraction of what Levy could potentially demand for a minority stake in a club valued in the billions of pounds.

Levy will be conscious that Newcastle's takeover by Saudi Arabia's wealth fund, as well as the potential for United and Liverpool to be further strengthened by new ownership, will make it even harder for Spurs to keep competing at the top end of English football without fresh investment.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the Paris Saint-Germain president and chairman of Qatar Sports Investments, with Kylian Mbappe (AFP via Getty Images)
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the Paris Saint-Germain president and chairman of Qatar Sports Investments, with Kylian Mbappe (AFP via Getty Images)

A deal with the Qataris, who have deeper pockets and grander ambitions than practically anyone else involved the game, would enable the chairman to continue running the club assiduously, but with the funds to satisfy the demanding Conte and the club's restless fanbase, which called for Levy's head in the recent games against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

Levy, though, may prefer a more low-key investor than QSI and with less baggage, while relinquishing a minority stake in Spurs now would potentially make it more difficult for ENIC to sell the club outright in future.

Having Qatar as minority partners would potentially offer supporters the best of both worlds: keeping the largely well-respected and fastidious Levy in a position of overall control and avoiding turning Spurs into the kind of glittering, soulless circus that PSG have become under Al-Khelaifi. This scenario would also dilute the pressing moral questions that come with any investment from Qatar, although they would not go away entirely.

For many fans, even the prospect of finally matching the spending power of the likes of City, Chelsea and Manchester United and massively boosting their chances of ending 15 years and counting without a trophy would not be worth their club becoming another sportswashing vehicle of the Qatari state.

Proud Lilywhites, the club's LGBTQ+ fan group, have already sought assurances from the club over the Qatar links, warning: "QSI don't align to the club's values of inclusion for everyone. Our members would be criminalised in Qatar and our Qatari siblings aren't safe, so until this changes, we would urge the club to ensure that this rumour remains a rumour."

Simply put, Qatari investment would compromise Spurs — a club well-known for its family environment and inclusivity — and potentially leave LGBTQ+ supporters, in particular, feeling unwelcome.

While acknowledging that Levy and Al-Khelaifi are close friends and meet often, Spurs have also denied that they have had any discussions over an equity stake in Spurs, while sources close to the PSG president have played down the chances of a deal.