The UAE, Qatar and the re-shaping of global football’s boundaries

Salma Thani, Tom Heenan

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    In 1977 the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recruited the former Leeds United and
    England manager, Don Revie, to manage the national football team. Revie’s
    recruitment was a boundary breaker, heralding the Gulf States’ entry into the game and sport’s broader political economy. This movement has reshaped – and
    continues to reshape – the global football political economy. Confronted with the
    need to diversify oil monies housed in sovereign wealth funds (SWF), the Gulf
    States, most notably the UAE and Qatar, have invested broadly in football. Gulf
    airlines, such as Etihad and particularly Emirates, have become major sponsors of sporting events and football brands. Currently, Emirates is involved in over 50
    sporting sponsorships globally, including many major football clubs like Real
    Madrid, Paris-St Germain, Arsenal, and AC Milan. These investments assist in
    branding the UAE, and particularly Dubai, as a global destination and transport
    hub connecting Asia, Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Similarly, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad
    Airline is a partner with Manchester City, while the Qatar Foundation features on
    the Barcelona FC jersey. Most significantly of all, Qatar has secured the right to
    host the 2022 World Cup, despite criticism from more established footballing
    nations over its suitability. This chapter argues that these states’ diversification of oil money into major football markets has reshaped football boundaries globally, though not without controversy. It has fuelled allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup. Moreover, it has inflated player salaries, helped create super-elite European clubs, and eroded the significance of traditional nation-based competitions and cups. The continuation of this trend will eventually remould elite club football into a competition between mega club brands, either sponsored or owned by resource rich states like the UAE and Qatar.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSport, Identity and Community
    EditorsAndy Harvey, Richard Kimball
    Place of PublicationOxford UK
    PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Print)9781848884526
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • Football
    • United Arab Emirates
    • Qatar
    • oil
    • political economy

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