For some time, Qatar—a major backer of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamist groups—has been locked in a strategic struggle with the pro-Western and loosely pro-Israel bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. It has also kept up friendly relations with Iran, the sworn adversary of both the moderate Gulf states the Jewish one. Jordan Cope explains how this intra-Arab rivalry has spilled over into the realm of soccer:
Last spring, Qatar deployed its state-financed broadcast network, beIn Media Group, to sabotage Saudi Arabia’s effort to purchase [the British team] Newcastle United. The company, which holds regional broadcasting rights for Premier League games, contacted all twenty teams in the league and accused Riyadh of “siphoning off its broadcast signals.”
While this might have been a business move, it could also have been another skirmish in Qatar’s “proxy war” against Saudi Arabia and its allies—the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt—over the question of Islamism. . . . Despite its small size, Qatar enjoys great influence and oil wealth. It has given nearly $5 billion to U.S. universities and sponsors Al-Jazeera. It is now seeking to exert international cultural influence through soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Soccer offers Qatar an opportunity to supplant Saudi and Emirati influence, seize the world’s attention, and sanitize its Islamism.
Qatar Airways has also partnered with Europe’s elite clubs—Bayern Munich and AS Roma in 2018, and FC Barcelona between 2013 and 2017—that the Qatar Foundation sponsored between 2011 and 2013. With global soccer domination in sight, Qatar now seeks a stake in Leeds United and the Emirates-dominated Premier League.
Qatar’s partnerships [a covert way for] it to boost its popularity as it finances terrorism and Islamist insurrections. Fans must demand better corporate accountability from their clubs.