Turning its attention away from global football heavyweights such as FC Barcelona and Paris St. Germain, Qatar has recently invested GBP100,000 (approximately QR550,000) in a small British club that is more than 150 years old.
According to Richard Tims, the chairman of Sheffield FC – an amateur club from the north of England that was founded in 1857 – the funds came from Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizing committee.
Sheffield FC did not invent football, but was the first organization to be set up with the intention of playing it, and, according to its website, has been recognized by FIFA and the English FA as the world’s first football team.
For the last 14 years, the club has been playing in a small 1,500-seater stadium outside of Sheffield, but in June was given a free land lease from the local council to return to its original site of Olive Grove in the city.
However, the ground is basic, and don’t have the facilities to host senior non-league football matches. so through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, the club has been trying to raise GBP150,000 this month to help build a stadium there.
After failed attempts to get financial support from the English Football Association and the Premier League, Qatar stepped in, AP reports Tims as saying:
“This is not about Qatar muscling in. This is about having a catalyst that makes everyone sit up and take note … a partnership between the new kids on the block and the world’s first football club protecting the heritage of football,” he said.
Speaking at the Soccerex convention in Manchester, UK, Tims said in an interview with Football Qatar that he had first met the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy’s Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi in Johannesburg in 2009, and the pair had been discussing potential investment opportunities since then.
Recent success of the club’s women’s team, which was promoted to the FA’s Women’s Super League, also helped attract the Qataris attention, Tims added.
“We are a small club with not a lot of resources. Qatar has kindly invested into the foundation to help the ladies achieve their dream,” he said, adding that Al Thawadi has been invited to join the board of the club’s charitable foundation.
“This is all about preserving, protecting and promoting grassroots football, of which Qatar has committed to do,” he continued.
Al Thawadi already had links to the industrial city of Sheffield, having studied law at university there.
“Our modest contribution is part of a first step on an important journey for the club of gaining wider support for the (stadium) project,” he told AP.
“I hope that when the new ground and museum at Olive Grove is developed and schoolchildren from across the world visit and stand on the site where the beautiful game was created, they will be able to comprehend just how far the game traveled to every corner of the globe which resulted in the first Middle Eastern World Cup,” Al Thawadi added.
Since it was awarded hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has faced intense scrutiny over its ability to put on such a global tournament.
The weather, the small size of the country, a lack of existing infrastructure and workers’ rights have all been raised as issues.
This year, US authorities have also launched investigations into the bidding processes at FIFA for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
But speaking in Manchester yesterday, SCDL Secretary-General of tournament operations Nasser Al-Khater remained upbeat.
“There has been intense criticism… but the ferociousness of the criticism is making the local population resolute about this World Cup and how it can showcase the country,” QNA reports him as saying.