Qatari investors are planning to make a huge bid to buy Premier League club Manchester United, the Daily Mail newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.
The report described the investors as “a group of private, high-wealth individuals” from Qatar, which hosted the 2022 World Cup.
United declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Manchester United’s New York-listed shares jumped nearly 16.5% in premarket trading.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), which owns Paris St Germain, was considering either a total takeover or a stake in Manchester United or their rivals Liverpool.
QSI is a state-backed body founded by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, but European soccer governing body UEFA has strict integrity rules regarding multi-club ownership.
No club participating in its competitions is allowed to “directly or indirectly hold or deal in the securities or shares of any other club”.
In 2017, Bundesliga side RB Leipzig and Austrian side Salzburg were both cleared to play in the Champions League after UEFA said it was satisfied that energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull did not have a controlling influence in both clubs.
The Daily Mail report states the interested investors are separate from QSI and that the money will come from an “individual fund” rather than a sovereign wealth fund.
Jim Ratcliffe’s company INEOS formally entered the bidding process to buy United last month after the club’s U.S. owners, the Glazer family, said in November they had begun looking at options including new investment or a potential sale.
United fans have been clamouring for a change of ownership and the Glazers have been the target of intense criticism as the team last won silverware back in 2017, lifting the Europa League and League Cup trophies.
In April, thousands protested outside Old Trafford, lighting flares and singing songs demanding the Glazers “get out of the club”.
United’s net debt, another bone of contention among fans, had grown to 515 million pounds ($620.42 million) by September.
The team, managed by Erik ten Hag, are third in the league on 42 points after 21 games, three points behind Manchester City but eight adrift of leaders Arsenal, who have played a game less.