Is Oxford United a victim of Indonesian state sponsored sportswashing?

June 5th 2022

Following the recent takeover of Newcastle United by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, it has emerged that Oxford United is also the focus of a controversial takeover.

A syndicate led by the Indonesian businessman Anindya Bakrie is seeking to take control of the League One football club, against a backdrop of Bakrie’s close links to the Indonesian government and allegations that his wealth is linked to the exploitation and ongoing genocide of the people of West Papua.

Anindya Bakrie sits at the helm of Bakrie & Brothers, part of the Bakrie Group conglomerate, with interests spanning plantations, infrastructure, telecoms, media and mining across Indonesia. Bakrie’s father, the business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, was once of Indonesia’s most wealthy individuals and ran an unsuccessful bid for the country’s presidency in 2014.

In 2009, the Amungme and Kamoro tribes of West Papua launched a landmark legal case against the Bakrie family firm. Over two million hectares of pristine rainforests had been cleared as part of mining operations, amidst reports of forced displacement, human rights abuses and environmental destruction on an industrial scale – somewhat at odds with Anindya Bakrie’s professed plans to make Oxford United a carbon neutral club.

I’ve written an article in today’s Daily Telegraph about the implications of the proposed takeover which also places the club in a curious and tangled tale unfolding in Oxford, involving local politics, a tribal leader from the remote highlands of West Papua, and bizarre attempts by the Indonesian government to exert influence over the famous university city.

Read the article here