Qatar stunned the football world today by promising to invest £100,000 into non-league Sheffield FC’s female soccer programme.
The cash injection comes as the world’s oldest club tries to raise £150,000 - in a separate pot - to finance preliminary work on their prospective new ground at Olive Grove.
The windfall was offered after meetings between Sheffield chairman Richard Tims and Sheffield University-educated Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s Word Cup supreme committee.
Former University of Sheffield law student Al Thawadi was a visitor to Wednesday and United when he lived in the city and has struck up a relationship with the Dronfield-based club.
Tims said the high profile football boss would sit on the board of the club’s Foundation and he hoped that their cash injection would be both the start of more money from Qatar...but more importantly a trigger for others to come forward with meaningful donations.
Sheffield has raised £31,719 towards their preliminary move costs - 21 per cent of their anticipated £150,000 target.
They have given themselves a window of 14 more days find the rest.
Tims said: “Qatar has had bigger issues on their plate that ladies football at Sheffield, so it has unbelievable what they have offered.
“The money cannot be used for the new ground but the idea is that it will be a catalyst for more funds. To have the head guy from Qatar on our Foundation is really going to help our agenda.”
Tims started the charm offensive six years ago at a conference in South Africa and has kept in touch with Al Thawadi since.
The country hosting the Middle East’s first World Cup in 2022 would benefit from a benevolent image in Europe - and helping out the word’s football club is certainly good for their image.
Sheffield FC insist it only turned to Qatar after effectively being short-changed by the English Football Association and Premier League in the search for cash to fund a return to the site of its original home.
Al Thawadi shares the vision of having a museum and visitors’ centre at Olive Grove.
If that happens, Sheffield FC may try and sell their ground to developers.