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  • (CROWD CHEERS)

  • REPORTER: Melbourne City has won its first A-League grand final

  • with a 3-1 victory over a 10 man Sydney FC in Melbourne.

  • SEAN NICHOLLS: On Australian soccer's biggest stage,

  • a brand-new champion was crowned this year.

  • Melbourne City's inaugural A-League victory was a triumph for loyal fans

  • but also its big-spending foreign owner, based in Abu Dhabi.

  • This is a decades-long play to build a global football empire.

  • They want to be global players in a global economy,

  • and using football, in this case, is one way that they're doing that.

  • Australian soccer has long operated

  • in the shadows of this country's more established football codes,

  • while tens of millions of dollars have poured into the local game

  • from offshore.

  • There's been zero media scrutiny... (LAUGHS)

  • ..of the involvement of most of the people involved in our game.

  • And I think that's the way they like it.

  • If people don't ask questions, they don't need to give answers.

  • It's as simple as that.

  • In the stadiums, fans focus on the exploits of their teams,

  • not their wealthy owners.

  • NICHOLAS MCGEEHAN: Do you really want to be run

  • by a government that's committing war crimes

  • and part of its purpose of owning the club

  • is to deflect attention

  • from those war crimes and other human rights abuses?

  • You know, I would argue no.

  • Clubs should be run

  • in the interest of their supporters and their communities,

  • not in the political interest of foreign governments.

  • No-one in Australia had really raised the question

  • of whether we wanted a sporting club in Australia

  • to be owned by a conglomerate in a country that was a little bit shady.

  • Football clubs have been used internationally

  • for money laundering, for organised criminals to get involved.

  • And, from a law-enforcement perspective,

  • that's something we would never want to see here in Australia.

  • More than its domestic rivals,

  • like AFL or rugby league,

  • soccer is a truly global game,

  • and with that has come significant levels of foreign investment.

  • Tonight on Four Corners we look beyond what happens on the field

  • to investigate the cashed-up powerbrokers

  • behind some of Australia's biggest teams.

  • (TRAFFIC DRONES)

  • (INDISTINCT CHATTER)

  • On a Sunday afternoon in late June,

  • thousands of Australian soccer fans converged on a Melbourne stadium

  • for the code's biggest match of the year.

  • Hey! Hey!

  • (INDISTINCT CHATTER)

  • The Grand Final clash featured two of the league's biggest names -

  • Sydney FC and Melbourne City.

  • FANS: (SING) # Everywhere we go!

  • # It's City boys making all the noise!

  • # Everywhere we go!

  • # Everywhere we go!

  • # Everywhere we go!

  • # It's City boys making all the noise! #

  • (INDISTINCT CHATTER, LAUGHTER)

  • With a home-ground advantage

  • and the chance to win their first championship,

  • Melbourne City fans were pumped-up and out in force.

  • Keep coming, everyone! Get down!

  • Everyone, get down!

  • Grand final day! Oi! Oi!

  • Let's go! Alright...

  • Oi! We're going to go nice and slow

  • and then go fucking mental, alright?!

  • (INDISTINCT CHATTER)

  • ALL: (SING QUIETLY) # Sha-la-la, la-la-la-lah

  • # Shh, shh

  • # Oh, Melbourne boys

  • # Shh, shh

  • (BUILDING) # Sha-la-la, la-la-la-lah (CLAPPING)

  • # Oh, Melbourne boys

  • # Let's go!

  • (LOUDLY) # Sha-la-la, la-la-la-lah!

  • # Oh, Melbourne boys! #

  • Come on!

  • # Sha-la-la, la-la-la-lah! #

  • Come on!

  • # Oh, Melbourne boys! # Let's go!

  • HARRISON VERCOE: The lead-up was tense

  • because we were missing a lot of our key players

  • with being on Socceroos duty,

  • and, so, I was nervous, you know, coming into the Grand Final.

  • Sydney's been the team to beat for years.

  • (WHISTLE BLOWS)

  • At the final whistle,

  • Melbourne City was crowned this year's champion

  • of the men's domestic competition known as the A-League.

  • (CROWD CHEERS)

  • As a fan, that's the best thing you can possibly ask for.

  • I mean, you wait years.

  • I mean, I've been going to games since I was 15 years old,

  • and you dream of winning a championship.

  • (CROWD CHEERS)

  • ANNOUNCER: Scott Jamieson!

  • (CROWD CHEERS)

  • Melbourne City's goal-scoring captain, Scott Jamieson,

  • was credited with a big role in the win.

  • But, in his victory speech,

  • Jamieson was quick to single out a much less recognisable club figure.

  • Firstly, I'd like to thank Melbourne City owner,

  • His Highness Sheikh Mansour.

  • Melbourne City's owner

  • is the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates,

  • Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan.

  • He wasn't at the game.

  • If he was watching at all, it was likely from his home

  • over 11,000 kilometres away in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

  • Sheikh Mansour is...well, he's the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE.

  • He's an al Nahyan, which is the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.

  • So, he's incredibly powerful, on one level.

  • Sheikh Mansour is also staggeringly rich,

  • with a personal fortune estimated at more than $20 billion.

  • Mansour sits at the apex of the royal family that rules Abu Dhabi -

  • the wealthiest of seven principalities

  • that form the United Arab Emirates.

  • He's the brother of the de-facto leader of the United Arab Emirates,

  • which is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan,

  • and it's his relationship to him

  • from where he gathers most of his power.

  • The Crown Prince is essentially a dictator at this point.

  • He has assumed a lot of power in Abu Dhabi and United Arab Emirates.

  • And Mansour is very close to him and is part of the inner circle.

  • Sheikh Mansour's first foray into the soccer world was in 2008,

  • when he bought the then mid-tier English Premier League club

  • Manchester City.

  • (INAUDIBLE CHATTER)

  • The Sheikh's purchase of Manchester City polarised fans.

  • On the one hand, Manchester City fans loved it

  • because he brought in the money

  • that allowed them to buy all the players

  • and the expertise and the transformation of the club

  • that would buy them success and trophies.

  • But they didn't know who he was.

  • None of us had ever heard of Sheikh Mansour.

  • We didn't know what he was and what he stood for,

  • whether he was really a football fan -

  • the scepticism over that, of course,

  • given that he's only visited once in 13 years of ownership.

  • Um... So... And then, of course,

  • there are people questioning his wider motives -

  • was he in it for the football or was he in it for other things

  • like, you know, post-oil diversification of a nation's assets

  • or sportswashing or some other motivation?

  • Even though Mansour was the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE,

  • he was often just represented

  • in the press and particularly by Manchester City

  • as just a wealthy benefactor, just another sheikh from the Middle East.

  • The level of his involvement to the government

  • and his links to the government

  • were downplayed and underplayed,

  • so nobody really talked about anything

  • other than the fact he had money.

  • Sheikh Mansour's sports-investment company

  • is called City Football Group -

  • a global behemoth recently valued at more than $6 billion.

  • NICK HARRIS: So, City Football Group has been operational since 2013,

  • and it began as a parent company, effectively, of Manchester City,

  • and, quite soon after, New York City FC in New York,

  • and has now grown at this point in 2021

  • to be a group of... the umbrella organisation

  • that owns and has major shareholdings

  • in 10 different football clubs around the world at this point.

  • In 2014

  • Sheikh Mansour's City Football Group

  • snapped up a struggling Australian A-League club called Melbourne Heart

  • for about $11 million.

  • Club supporter Harrison Vercoe

  • remembers how it divided the fan base.

  • HARRISON VERCOE: I mean, on one hand,

  • you've got this huge superpower in world football taking over your club

  • and you know there's gonna be a cash injection.

  • And automatically when you hear 'cash injection',

  • you think that's gonna equate to success straightaway.

  • And, on the other hand,

  • you're seeing this club that you've grown up following

  • and supporting week in and week out

  • be stripped of its identity,

  • and that's hard as a fan.

  • You know, we lost our colours, we lost our name, we lost the badge.

  • (INDISTINCT CHATTER)

  • Melbourne Heart was renamed Melbourne City

  • and its colours were changed from red and white to light blue.

  • Why would City Football Group,

  • which owns huge teams like Manchester City,

  • be interested in buying a much smaller team

  • in a much smaller market like Melbourne City?

  • One of the reasons would be around identifying young talent,

  • both men and women.

  • And because they have a network around the world

  • in which they can move those players,

  • it allows them to identify young talent,

  • sell them onto other clubs

  • and further their development

  • as well as realise some commercial gain.

  • The team also became a part

  • of what critics say is a slick propaganda machine

  • designed to burnish the UAE's international image.

  • (CROWD CHEERS)

  • (SOARING MUSIC PLAYS)

  • Melbourne City is one of several City Football teams

  • being used by the UAE to promote next month's world expo in Dubai.

  • SAM KLINTWORTH: The UAE seeks to promote their brand

  • as one of glamour, one of positivity, one of wealth

  • and certainly one of being very globally connected.

  • The reality, in our view,

  • is that much of that actually diverts and distracts

  • from the significant and concerning human-rights abuses

  • that are happening in the UAE on a daily basis.

  • Amnesty International has consistently criticised

  • the United Arab Emirates' record on human rights.

  • Amnesty have many concerns

  • around human-rights violations occurring in the UAE.

  • Some of those include the silencing and imprisonment

  • of those speaking out in opposition to the ruling family.

  • Certainly, the rights of women are a concern for us,

  • the rights of same-sex couples.

  • And there are disturbing human-rights violations

  • against...within the kafala,

  • which is the system of sponsorship for migrant workers.

  • If a picture speaks a thousand words,

  • then the video you're about to see,

  • uncovered in an exclusive Nightline investigation,

  • tells a long and dark story -

  • a member of a royal family abusing his power

  • in a violent and despicable way.

  • (GUNSHOTS)

  • (MAN WHIMPERS)

  • Sheikh Mansour's family

  • has been implicated in shocking human-rights abuses.

  • (GUNSHOTS)

  • A video leaked to the US media

  • showed his brother Sheikh Issa

  • torturing a merchant in the desert

  • over a business dispute involving $5,000 worth of grain.

  • FOOTAGE JOURNALIST: With the help of a man in a police uniform,

  • the victim has his legs tied

  • and then is forced to the ground,

  • held down by the officer

  • as sand is shoved into the victim's mouth

  • by what the UAE government now acknowledges to ABC News

  • is one of the country's 22 royal sheikhs...

  • (MAN SCREAMS)

  • ..Sheikh Issa, the brother of the Crown Prince.

  • After using a cattle prod on his victim,

  • there's this gruesome scene -

  • the sheikh points to a board with a nail protruding

  • and then begins to beat him again and again.

  • The tape ends with what appears to be attempted murder.

  • The victim is left semi-conscious

  • as Sheikh Issa drives over him, back and forth,

  • with his Mercedes SUV.