Qaṭar: Manchester United at risk of being controlled by an oppressive government


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses its deep concern about reports that some of the institutions close to the Qatari government have made an offer to acquire the Manchester United football club, which competes in the Premier League, the top division in the English football league system.

News reports have confirmed that Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, a son of Qatar’s former prime minister, launched a bid to buy the Manchester United Club before the initial deadline for bids expired on 17 February 2023. 

Manchester United is one of the most successful clubs in the history of football and its image would be tainted if its owners are linked to an oppressive government that is abusing human rights on a daily basis, including the rights of migrant workers who built the facilities for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. 

The Qatari authorities have imprisoned many prisoners of conscience, including lawyer Dr. Hazzaa bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, who was arrested on 10 August 2021, and lawyer Rashid bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, his brother, who was arrested the next day. Both were imprisoned solely for their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities which included their demand for their fellow citizens to be given the right to political participation. 

In addition, migrant workers in Qatar are deprived of their basis rights, including the right to establish unions that defend their human and civil rights. GCHR released a report in 2022 which documented massive violations against migrant workers and called on the Qatari government, in cooperation with other stakeholders such as FIFA, and in consultation with representatives of migrant workers, to provide migrant workers with the compensation they deserve. Yet, the authorities failed to act until now to provide compensation for the migrant workers who have suffered harm because of their work in the World Cup facilities in Qatar.

In Qatar, the State Security Apparatus has managed to act above the law and use the judiciary as a tool to punish innocent citizens, including prominent human rights lawyer Dr. Najeeb Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, who are after many years still banned from travel by a direct order from the State Security Apparatus. They remain under travel bans although they are law-abiding citizens, and the judiciary has ordered the travel bans to be lifted.

Human rights defenders who are active in exile were also the subject of targeting and attacks organised by the State Security Apparatus, such as human rights defender Abdullah Al-Maliki who was attacked while organising a peaceful gathering in Germany and is also still facing a trial in absentia solely for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Woman human right defender Noof Al-Maadeed was forced not to talk about women’s rights after her return to Qatar from UK on 30 September 2021. Her new Twitter account is totally empty from any opinions, whether critical or not.

In light of all the above-mentioned massive human rights violation we call on the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the Premier League (PL) to reject this bid which risks allowing sport to be used as a cover up for a government that has refused so far calls for real human rights reforms.