Last Updated Dec 24, 2010 12:38 PM EST
- Israel has reportedly sent diplomats to F.C. Barcelona to persuade the club to back out of their massive new sponsorship by the Qatar Foundation on the grounds that the foundation funds Hamas, a terrorist group based on Israel's borders in the West Bank and Gaza.
- It is rumored that the Qatari royal family -- which runs the foundation -- is in talks with owner Malcom Glazer over a buyout of heavily indebted Manchester United.
- Having won the job of hosting the 2022 World Cup Qatar must now convince fans that attending the games will be fun even though the stadia must be air-conditioned to ward off the 107-degree desert heat; there's a prohibition on drinking alcohol; being boisterous or gay is banned; and the police may arrest you even for witnessing a traffic accident.
The U.S. Embassy in Doha cautions U.S. citizens that Qatari police have arrested U.S. citizens suspected of or witness to a crime, including traffic accidents involving injuries to pedestrians or the occupants of other cars, traffic arguments, slander, and a variety of lesser offenses. Once an arrest has been made, the Qatari Police have no independent authority to grant a release, an authority reserved solely for Qatar's Public Prosecution and Courts. As a result, arrested U.S. citizens, regardless of the charges, often spend one or two nights in jail awaiting a hearing with Qatar's Public Prosecution or the appropriate court.Qatar's wealth comes from the 77 million tonnes of natural gas it produces every year. The country has money to burn, and football is a very effective way to burn money. It's a lousy business in which it is virtually impossible to make a profit. The reason Man. Utd. and Barcelona have considered the Qataris is that their status as the planet's two leading soccer brands hasn't helped them escape their debts.
Wiping out their debt will be the easy part. Dealing with their fans is another question entirely. The emirs hail from a dictatorship with a compliant citizenry; the culture shock they'll get if fans begin to protest their presence will be unlike anything they've ever experienced before.
The family and its foundation may be well advised to concentrate on making 2022 a success rather than rescuing club football from its creditors -- you only know how deep the swamp is once you've waded in too far.