MANCHESTER: Sheffield FC, officially the oldest football club in the world, has joined the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona in being the beneficiary of Qatari investment writes CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE.
The club, founded in 1857 and who play in the eighth tier of English football, have received a donation of £100,000 from the Supreme Committee for the Delivery and Legacy of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The money forms what chairman Richard Tims hopes will be a fruitful relationship with the organising committee to help Sheffield FC’s ladies side, who are faring better than their male counterparts playing in the FA Women’s Super League 2.
Tims told KeirRadnedge.com at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester: “When our ladies gained promotion to the Super League, I put a plan together to prove we could make it at that stage because the teams we would be playing against were the likes of Aston Villa, Everton and a seventh division Sheffield FC didn’t really have the resource.
“So we got chatting to put some support into our foundation that would directly help the ladies football. So that’s how it all started really.
“It’s not going into the men’s first team, it’s about promoting the club as a whole so the ladies team typically has a requirement at the moment so that’s how the relationship started. We want to develop a partnership going forward, so we’ll see where it takes us.”
The investment came about thanks to discussions with Qatar 2022 General Secretary Hassan Al Thawadi, who met Tims in 2009 and spoke fondly about his time at Sheffield University.
Since then, the pair kept in contact to discuss ways to develop grassroots football that may benefit both parties.
But with allegations of human rights abuses in Qatar and a controversy over how the tiny gulf state won the right to host the World Cup in 2022, the public perception of anything to do with the country is not viewed favourably.
Tims, however, is not concerned by the sheer amount of negative stories about his club’s generous benefactors.
“Obviously, I’ve been talking to them for four years so I’ve been following the story,” he said. “What I’m hoping is we can raise the profile to dispel some of those public perceptions.
“Most of the people criticising Qatar have never been. I’ve been, and I think Qatar realises it’s got some work to do to gain that public perception on workers’ rights which they’re working on and which football can help raise that profile for that positive change.
“So have I got any qualms? Not at all.”
Short on support
Something with which Tims does object to however is the response, or rather lack of it, from British football clubs for the greater cause of Sheffield FC which is to return to the original site of the club in the city and build a home for the historic club.
A crowdfunding campaign has so far raised more than £31,000 in a month but most of the donations have come from abroad, including the likes of Borussia Dortmund. Just two weeks remain for the club to reach their £150,000 target.
“The crowdfunding campaign has raised over 31,000 in just one month,” Tims said. “95 per cent of that has come from international. We’ve written to every Football League club, we’ve written to every Premier League club and the Premier League itself. So maybe we just don’t respect it enough. [We’ve had] Nothing at all.”