Erling Braut Haaland, 21, wants to raise wages from one of the world’s most brutal and violent regimes. Says the Middle East expert who himself is not wanted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This week, Haaland finally moved to Manchester City confirmed. This comes 14 years after Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought the Premier League club.
During that time, the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi only once appeared in the stands at Al Ittihad.
– It is not Sheikh Mansour who controls Manchester City, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – who is often called “Mohammed bin Zayed” – who controls it. Nicholas McGeehan tells VG that he is one of the most powerful and dangerous people in the region.
Twenty years ago, he lived in the United Arab Emirates. There he worked as an English teacher and communicated with foreign workers in the country. Their stories impressed McGeehan. He describes them as “terrible”.
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Later, the Scotsman worked for five years at Human Rights Watch, and was in charge of the United Arab Emirates. It is a tyrannical country without freedom of expression and choice. Gross human rights violations have been well documented by organizations such as Pardons.
– “Mohammed bin Zayed” does not control the club’s operations from day to day, but uses his lieutenant to do so. Among others, Khaldoon Al Mubarak. These are smart and dangerous people. They do not act deeply unethical and only violate human rights. They also have a dangerous vision of a world order that they want to export to other countries. It’s about an authoritarian mindset, McGeehan says, that should provide stability.
He himself was declared persona non grata in the UAE in 2014.
Today he heads the human rights organization Fair Square. McGeehan has also written for the New York Times and The Guardian.
What can you say about human rights violations in the UAE?
– It’s of a violent nature. Many may think that Qatar is the worst in the region, but this is completely wrong. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are the worst. We are talking about violent abuse. This is a country where as a journalist you cannot make one person say something ugly about its leaders, for fear of reprisals. In my opinion, there are only three such countries in the world: the United Arab Emirates, North Korea and Turkmenistan. Opposing people end up in the cells without being seen again.
– In your opinion, what is the responsibility of Erling Braut Haaland and the other players in Manchester City?
– they have Effect. But I do not want to say that they have great the responsibility. I prefer to put that on the shoulders of FIFA, UEFA and FIFA, who are making a lot of money. They are responsible for shaping football. The human rights activist thinks it’s great that young players dare to speak out, as they did in Norway last year, but it’s a mistake to blame young boys who want to make money during a short career.
VG, Der Spiegel and the rest of the network own the European Investigative Collaboration (EIC) previously shown How the authorities in Abu Dhabi are spending huge sums directly in Manchester City, along with sponsorship deals.
The club is accused of violating Financial Fair Play rules, and was fined for not opting to cooperate when UEFA investigated them in the wake of the Football Leaks document being leaked.
The Football Association is still investigating the Manchester City case.
Manchester City have consistently denied violating regulations, winning their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after UEFA banned them from participating in their tournaments for violating economic fair play regulations. Part of the reason they won was because the base fee was older than the five-year statute of limitations.
What do leaders in Abu Dhabi want when they spend money on Manchester City?
Sports can be used for many things: it can be about power, politics, networks, business cooperation, and influence over countries like England and the United States. Anyway, it was never about football. They don’t care about football. They run the club and they run their country: reckless. Just look at the way they navigated financial fair play and how UEFA was under threat when they opened the case, Nicholas McGeehan tells VG.
He is not only known among the leaders of the United Arab Emirates.
Also in the city of Manchester, the name McGeehan was mentioned. Shows internal emails known by Football Leaks:
In early 2014, the city management discussed a possible sponsorship agreement with Arabtec from Dubai, which is also part of the United Arab Emirates. Since the Guardian had already written about conditions for foreign workers in the UAE, and the BBC had specifically mentioned Arabtec in negative terms, the city administration had ordered a written risk assessment.
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The conclusion stated, among other things: “Partnering with Arabtec has great potential to create the impression and prestige of the club and its owners.”
City spokeswoman Vicki Kloss was clear in her recommendation when she emailed the club’s management: “I think this is the single biggest risk associated with our reputation since 2008. The distance between what we (Citi) do and what Arabtec is doing cannot be corrected.” I wrote.
Then Nicholas McGeehan stated:
“Dealing with Arabtec is like winning his jackpot.”
Manchester City’s management chose to ignore the recommendation: instead, they signed an agreement worth 80 million kroner annually. However, the agreement was regional: the advertising campaign was shown only in Arab countries, as well as in Russia and Turkey.
Scotsman Nicholas McGeehan believes that many football fans care about what is happening at their clubs, although it does not always seem like this:
Many people care, but there is also a limit to how much you can care. There are many that catch our eye. There is a refugee crisis in Europe, a climate crisis, a war in Ukraine and harsh working conditions in Qatar. Everyone wants you to care what happened in Norway was still incredibly good. It may not have produced the result many Norwegian fans had hoped for, but it has put enormous pressure on Qatar, the Scotsman tells VG.
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