Beitar and Beyond: The United Arab Emirates and Qatar’s use of Football as Soft Power

This policy outlook examines the UAE and Qatar’s investment in football clubs in Europe and Israel as two distinct and developing modes of soft power.

In 2008, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, formed the City Football Group as a branch of the private investment and development company known as the Abu Dhabi United Group to facilitate the purchase of English football team Manchester City F.C. In 2012, Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund, purchased the French team Paris Saint-Germain. In the decade since these acquisitions, Manchester City and PSG have become fascinating and lucrative examples of soft power for the two Gulf states. In September of 2020, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a lesser-known member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, purchased a 50 per cent stake in Beitar Jerusalem F.C, an Israeli football team. This investment has shed light on the shifting economic relations between Israel and the UAE and highlighted the unique influence of football in Israeli politics. This policy outlook examines the UAE and Qatar’s investment in football clubs in Europe and Israel as two distinct and developing modes of soft power.

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