Qatar in talks to buy a stake in Leeds

LONDON • Qatar held advanced discussions to buy a stake in storied English Championship football team Leeds United on Monday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The gas-rich Gulf state, which has gained an outsized influence in global football, stunned the sports world when it secured the rights to host the World Cup in 2022.

Since that vote in 2010, it has been among the most consequential footballing nations, buying and investing huge amounts to turn French champions Paris Saint-Germain into a powerhouse team, and also becoming the one of the biggest acquirers of football rights through its beIN Sports network.

The move for Leeds, who missed out on a return to the Premier League after losing their play-off semi-final to Derby last month, would be Qatar's first foray into English football, and most likely will lead to further scrutiny into its affairs at home and abroad.

Human rights groups have drawn attention to the treatment of workers building their World Cup stadiums, while there have been allegations of wrongdoing over the way in which Qatar persuaded Fifa members during the bidding process for the showpiece event.

The talks with Leeds, who were relegated from the top flight in 2004 and have languished in the wilderness since, are at an advanced stage.

They stem from a personal relationship between the club's majority owner, Andrea Radrizzani, and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the businessman who fronts state-backed Qatar Sports Investments.

A close friend of Qatar Emir Tamim Hamad Al-Thani, he is also the president of PSG and chairman of beIN Sports.

The initial talks with Qatar involve a stake sale, though there could be a provision for a full buyout later on, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

An investment in Leeds would be Qatar's third in European football teams - as well as PSG, they own Belgian side Eupen.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2019, with the headline 'Qatar in talks to buy a stake in Leeds'. Print Edition | Subscribe