Analysis: Football club deal meant to veil Bahraini regime’s black Human Rights record

Analysis: Football club deal meant to veil Bahraini regime’s black Human Rights record

In recent years, there has been a trend represented by a willingness by the Arab countries to own foreign football clubs. The Al Khalifa rulers seem to be no exception as they like counterparts in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar are planning same possession. Recent reports suggest that Invest Corp Bahrain, a wealthy state company, has finalized a deal on acquisition of Italian A.C. Milan football club.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): In recent years, there has been a trend represented by a willingness by the Arab countries to own foreign football clubs. The Al Khalifa rulers seem to be no exception as they like counterparts in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar are planning same possession. Recent reports suggest that Invest Corp Bahrain, a wealthy state company, has finalized a deal on acquisition of Italian A.C. Milan football club. If the deal goes ahead, the glorious Italian football club would be among world's four wealthiest football clubs after Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, and New Castle. 

Previously, big clubs such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were bought by the UAE and Qatar, but so far no major club in Italy has been bought by the Arabs. 

In the past years, it was mostly Chinese companies that were interested in investing and owning Italian clubs. Purchase of shares in Inter Milan is an example. 

So, the newest Arab side to join the race for possession of European football clubs is the Bahrain rulers. 

"Arab A.C. Milan", a 10-year project to regain the glory of the past 

The A.C. Milan football club, based in Milan, was founded in 1899 by two English men, Alfred Edwards and Harbert Killpin. Due to the origin of the club's founders, the English name of the city, instead of the Italian name, Milano, was used in its naming. It won its first Italian title in 1901. 

A.C. Milan won significant honors both in Italy and across Europe. The most important of them are 1X FIFA Clubs World Cup Winner, 4X European Champion Clubs' Cup Winner, 3X Champions League Winner, 18X Italian Champion Winner, 5X Italian Cup, 7X Italian Super Cup Winner, 2X Italian Serie B Champion, 3X Intercontinental Cup Winner, 2X Cup Winners Cup Winner, 1X Mitropacup Winner, and 5X UEFA Supercup Winner. 

However, this globally distinguished and popular club experienced a significant decline in the years after 2011 and this decline continues to date. 

The team has moved away from the top-tier of European football since 2011 and its fans have been calling for strengthening the team financially to allow it return to its heyday. The Bahrainis seem to have taken advantage of the current crisis in club to take its control. 

On Saturday, the Italian newspaper Gazeta Delo Sport in an article titled "Arab Milan" said that the deal would mark a new chapter for the football club. It elaborated on the deal, saying that the initial measure have been taken to transfer the club from its the Chinese owners to the Bahrainis and that the "grand project" of Arab Milan has already begun. 

The wealthy Bahraini company has agreed to invest heavily in the club for 10 years to bring back its days of glory. The company has reportedly allocated a significant amount of €300 million for the upcoming summer transfers to bring great and famous players to the team. 

Another project for Milan by the Bahraini owners is construction of a brand-new stadium. The team shares a stadium with Inter Milan in San Siro for its training. 

Arabs seek commercialization of rentier revenues 

Economically, Bahrainis' efforts to buy A.C. Milan can be regarded as a continuation of the Arab princes' commercialization approach in recent years. Arab countries have been encouraged to invest in Europe and the US over the past decades as investors with vast rentier wealth. Actually, the oil revenues of the Arab countries, a major portion of it going to the royals, is tempting the Western countries. 

In past decades, Arab princes have been invited to invest in stock exchanges, construction projects, and entertainment and tourism sectors. However, in recent years they have focused on sports, especially football, to inject their petrodollars into a commercialization process to produce further wealths. 

Countries such as the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in addition to planning for the successful hosting of the Asian games, prestigious golf and tennis tournaments, and FIFA World Cup, have also turned to buying European clubs. 

Wealthy Arab princes have already bought clubs in major European football leagues such as the English Premier League, French Ligue 1, and La Liga, and it looks like they will be encouraged by their Western partners to invest in the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A in the near future. So, driven by the huge revenues in the sports, Al Khalifa rulers are thinking about major investment in A.C. Milan. 

Covering up black human rights record of Al Khalifa 

Contrary to the economic aspect of the football club investments by Arab rulers, in which we can find legitimate and acceptable justifications, the political aspect of this investment is meant to cover up their despetic rule and black records in human rights. 

In fact, buying big sports clubs these days seems to have become a trick helping the Arab despots to escape the consequences of their human rights violations. 

In recent years, several companies and individuals from Arab countries have bought European clubs, and in 12 cases they have succeeded in their purchases. They currently have teams in four major European leagues, namely Spain, France, England, and Belgium, and even have had success in Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City clubs. 

So, the grand goal of Al Khalifa rulers behind buying A.C. Milan goes beyond economic revenues and is to whitewash their anti-human rights image on the world stage. Al Khalifa seeks to buy legitimacy among football fans mainly unfamiliar with its policy and nature. Even more, the regime intends to attract the younger generations at home.




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