Andrea Radrizzani’s Qatar link with Leeds United raises questions

Andrea Radrizzani’s revelation that Qatari Sports Investment are behind one of three live offers for a stake in Leeds United has prompted plenty of questions.

The kingmaker: Andrea Radrizzani says he has been approached by three interested parties keen on investing money into Leeds United. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
The kingmaker: Andrea Radrizzani says he has been approached by three interested parties keen on investing money into Leeds United. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

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Are Leeds United set for Manchester City-type takeover by Qatari Sports Investme...

On Monday, the Leeds United owner told The Times newspaper: “I have been approached by more than 20 parties and I have selected these three.

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“The option of Qatar Sports Investments and Nasser – first of all they are friends, we have had a good relationship for a long time.

Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani

“Secondly, they have the possibility to bring this club to compete with Manchester City, so for the fans that could be a fantastic opportunity.

“The second is based in America, he’s a big fan of Leeds United since he was a child, and I like that. Another one is the owner of an Italian club.”

So who exactly are the other two parties?

What size of the Leeds pie are they after?

What kind of financial power would the Whites wield?

Where would it leave Radrizzani?

And why is he talking about it now, on the eve of the club’s centenary?

The focus this week will be the club’s past, its rich history, beloved legends and celebrated successes, yet on Monday morning, as the owner’s interview with a national newspaper made waves in West Yorkshire, the future took centre stage.

Qatari investment at Elland Road has been rumoured since the summer and the club have, on numerous occasions, reiterated Radrizzani’s openness to outside investment, if it is right for the club’s current vision.

Simon Chadwick has followed the story closely.

A professor of Sports Enterprise and a director of the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Salford, he was listed by the Huffington Post in the world’s top-30 most important sports marketers.

Qatari financial input in sport is an area of expertise for the former University of Leeds professor.

The recent departure from the Elland Road boardroom of Ivan Bravo, general director of the Aspire Academy in Doha and technical director of the Qatar Football Association, has taken on particular interest for Chadwick in the light of Radrizzani’s comments.

“What I find significant is what happened with Ivan Bravo. On October 3 he quit and I’m not sure how to read this.

“On the one hand, the way it has always been portrayed is that Bravo has helped further relationships in Qatar but he’s just quit, what does that tell you?

“Bravo works for Aspire and Aspire owns a club in Belgium and a club in Spain and their interests have always been around developing grassroots talent.

“Maybe for Aspire in particular, it’s unlikely that Leeds United is going to serve as a feeder club for Qatar.

“I think Bravo’s resignation is really striking, he’s been there for some time and that resignation may indicate that the Qatar link is going cold, or it’s about to ascend to a new and different level.”

Chadwick is quick to point out that while Aspire and QSI are both state entities, they are unrelated and will not necessarily be working in conjunction with one another.

When it comes to Qatar and their financial priorities in the world of sport, Chadwick sees another football project taking up their time and money.

“Knowing what I know about Qatar right now, it’s primary focus is delivering the World Cup.

“I see and hear nothing coming out of Qatar that they are about to embark on a big investment programme in overseas sport.

“If Qatar is spending money on sport, it’s making sure it’s ready for the World Cup.

“During the World Athletics Championships the country took a bit of a beating for lots of reasons and it won’t want that for the World Cup.

“Where does that all leave Leeds?

“I’m not saying QSI won’t invest in Leeds but I’m wondering if they do invest, whether that might be in conjunction with others?

“I just don’t get the Qatari link, I remain to be convinced that Qatar will invest huge amounts of money in Leeds United.”

Chadwick believes that even if the Qataris were considering ploughing money into the Whites, it would not be a purely footballing decision and would also focus on urban development opportunities in the city.

He has also previously speculated that the stories linking Paris Saint-Germain owners QSI with Leeds United is a piece of a political jigsaw puzzle, Gulf nations vying for supremacy on the international sporting scene.

Another theory is that the latest headlines could help bring other potential investors to the table: “When I saw the latest news on this I wondered if this is about smoking out other interests, particularly because we have seen the departure of Ivan Bravo.

“His departure suggests something is going on, either that negotiations with a new investor are reaching a tipping point or to look at it another way, the club is running out of options and needs to change tack away from Qatar to secure investment from other entities.”