Wael In The Sun

February 29, 2016

Wael Al-Qadi has been interviewed.

(This article is by Tom Barclay in The Sun Football.)

WAEL AL-QADI wants to learn from the examples set by the likes of Vincent Tan, Massimo Cellino and The Venky’s – by doing the opposite of those madcap owners.

Jordanian Al-Qadi and his family completed a shock takeover of Bristol Rovers earlier this month.

But any Gas fans worried their new president might interfere with team selection, sack managers left right and centre or even meddle with the club’s colours can rest easy.

A football man from his work with the Jordanian FA, Al-Qadi insists he understands the game and hopes to alter the stereotype that mega rich foreign owners do not.

The banker, 46, told Sun Sport: “I hope to change that perception.”

“It is essential to understand and know the game if you want to be in it. How else will you improve? You have to understand it. You really have to know the game if you want to buy a football club.

“If you don’t know how the fans feel, what the fans want, what conditions managers need to perform better, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

“Without naming names, some owners have come in and, for example, have tried to tamper with the heritage of the club.

“Football is about tradition. A club has its heritage and its loyal fanbase. So when you come in and try to change a name or certain aspects of its heritage, that just does not work.

“It backfires. You lose the trust of the fans who are the most important thing in the club.”

One set of foreign owners that Al-Qadi does admire is Sheikh Mansour’s regime at Manchester City.

Though he is yet to meet the UAE supremo, Al-Qadi has visited City’s £200million new training complex and was blown away.

Pirates fans should not expect bundles of cash to be spent on players a la the blue half of Manchester – Al-Qadi insists he could not do that due to financial fair play, anyway.

But he does want to emulate City in many other ways – most notably the network system they have created in other countries with clubs like New York City.

Al-Qadi explained: “I’ve been to Man City and I’ve seen what they’ve done in a deprived area – how they’ve turned it around.

“They’ve created jobs and a beautiful academy which is one of the best in the world. What they’ve done they really have to be proud of.

“Local talent can go in, shine and go onto better things. It’s fantastic.

“Their tie-ups with clubs in New York, Australia and now in China are brilliant ideas.

“From that aspect on a smaller scale in Bristol, that is where my passion is – to get a very strong academy that can give local boys a chance to come through and also attract players from all over, all ethnicities, everywhere.

“I think Bristol Rovers will benefit from having tie-ups or associations with other clubs, be it exchanging ideas, young players coming in, or even our players going over and getting some experience abroad.

“Look at Eric Dier for example – an English lad who went over to Portugal and is now in the England team. So why not? Everything is possible in football.”

Al-Qadi picked Rovers because of “the potential of the city, the loyal fanbase and the deep heritage of the club”.

He wants to build it up slowly and “not by throwing money at it”, improving the academy, generating cash from strengthening sponsorship ties.

While he insists he is fully behind his manager Darrell Clarke, who admitted he was in the dark over the takeover.

Al-Qadi added: “I fully support him and what he wants to do. He’s the manager, he picks his team, he picks his staff, and I am here to support him. His record speaks for itself.”

Football nut Al-Qadi was educated at Westminster School in London and grew up a Chelsea fan as it was closest, supporting them when they were in the second division and idolising Kerry Dixon.

But these days he has a new favourite player, one who epitomises how anyone can go from the bottom to the top if they dream big and work hard – something Al-Qadi hopes to achieve at Rovers.

Al-Qadi revealed: “Recently, the player I really admire is Jamie Vardy. He is an example of what can be done – coming from non-league is a beautiful story.”

Tom Barclay's photo.

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