Jump to content



Recommended Posts

Beginning to look like the Arabs have set their sights on football now they have taken control of golf they have the money now the latest target is Manchester City’s Riyad Marez reputedly going to be offered a contract that will pay £43 million as I’ve always said you can’t pay bills with medals.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopefully more Brits will go and support their local clubs and lower league football, in general, as a result.  


'Elite football' or whatever they call it is becoming a vanity project for the super rich and powerful.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, alexscottislegend said:

Think I already know the answer but I wonder how Gers fans would feel about a Newcastle-type takeover?

I would love it right now we’re a club going nowhere 

Link to post
Share on other sites

 A 'Special Report' in yesterday's ST:



How the Middle Eastern superpowers have taken over sport

Saudi Arabia has won over golf and lured football’s biggest stars to its domestic league, rivalling its neighbours in race to become sport’s biggest force — Tom Kershaw asks where this power grab will end

Tom Kershaw

Sunday June 25 2023, 12.01am, The Sunday Times





A few holes into the pro-am at LIV Golf’s season-ending event in Miami in October, Donald Trump leant over the fairway rope to offer the most concise explanation as to why Saudi Arabia’s incursion into golf would end in victory. “Unlimited money,” he said with a grin. “Ultimately, I think, something gets worked out.”

It took less than nine months for Trump’s prediction to come to fruition, culminating in the framework for an extraordinary merger between Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and the PGA and DP World Tours. The cloak-and-dagger deal arrived as a shock, such had been the division since the Public Investment Fund (PIF) pumped £2 billion into its upstart rival league, but it did not require Trump’s wolfish prescience or the sight of his corkscrew golf swing during a round with Yasir al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, to foresee the Saudis getting their desired seat at the table.

Recent history is littered with figures who readily embraced or railed futilely against the Gulf’s rapacious investment in sport. For every Bernie Ecclestone, who gleefully brought Formula One to Bahrain in 2004, there is a Jay Monahan, who had invoked the spirit of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when vowing never to work with the Saudis. “I recognise that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” the PGA Tour commissioner said after his embarrassing volte-face.


For every Cristiano Ronaldo ready to extol virtues for a king’s ransom, there is a Rory McIlroy, who stood by his morals and was made to feel a “sacrificial lamb”. And for every Manhattan consultancy that helped to architect the Gulf nations’ strategic visions, there is a human rights organisation screaming into the void, their voices muffled by a relentless tide pulling global sport towards the Middle East.


Since Qatar hosted the World Cup, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani has launched a private bid to takeover Manchester United, and their neighbours Manchester City, who are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, have just won the Treble. After calling a ceasefire on golf’s civil war, the PIF is now taking charge of Saudi Arabia’s four biggest football clubs, who are signing several of the world’s most recognisable players and further distorting an already warped financial market.


“For a long time, we’ve seen three very ambitious states in the Gulf competing with each other, and that has now very much moved into sport,” Dr Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at the Baker Institute in Houston, Texas, says. “Saudi Arabia, by virtue of its size, can potentially blow any other country out of the water, and what Vision 2030 [the Kingdom’s strategic plan to diversify its economy and develop its public service sectors] has boiled down to are giga-projects to catapult it into the lead, but it’s playing catch-up.”


There is a temptation to view the Gulf’s sporting land grab through a 21st-century lens, but the intent dates back as far as 1971, when Qatar, Bahrain, and the newly formed United Arab Emirates revoked their treaties as British protectorates. Although accusations of sportswashing have dogged the Gulf nations in recent years, it was the need to diversify their economies beyond oil and gas, along with establishing global legitimacy and alliances, that spurred their spending. The forebear of how sport might eventually become a pillar of that was first felt in 1977, when Don Revie resigned as the England manager to coach the UAE. A distant scandal now, the FA was so aggrieved at the time that it unsuccessfully sought to suspend Revie from football for a decade.


The Gulf’s grip on sport did noticeably begin to tighten at the turn of the millennium. Dubai had won the proxy battles in the skies, establishing itself as the region’s main transport hub, but it was Bahrain that acted fastest on the ground, with the Crown Prince leveraging his relationship with Ecclestone to ensure the tiny island hosted the Middle East’s first grand prix, in 2004.

“Formula One was the catalyst,” says Martin Whitaker, the former managing director of the Bahrain International Circuit and now the chief executive of Saudi Motorsport. “It was a huge undertaking by the Bahrainis at the time, taken with a degree of emotion, but also a large degree of sense. It was a foundation to build new awareness for the kingdom and, perhaps more importantly, a perfect opportunity to develop in terms of business. There’s no doubt it was influenced by the progress taking place in Dubai at the time.”

The Bahrain Grand Prix also gave an insight into the rivalries playing out across various sectors in the Gulf, and the fears of being left behind. As part of a reported $40 million annual hosting fee, which Whitaker insists “wasn’t excessive”, Ecclestone made a “handshake deal” that required Bahrain’s approval before any other races were staged in the Middle East.

Abu Dhabi received such permission in 2009, but political tensions prevented Qatar from jumping on the bandwagon and it wasn’t able to host its inaugural grand prix until 2021. Its effective exile was such a source of aggravation that, at one stage, Qatar even attempted to buy a controlling stake in the Formula One Group, a move likened then to “buying the restaurant if it won’t give you a table”.


Qatar already had grander ambitions of its own, though, failing with bids to host the 2016 and 2020 Olympics before winning the right to host the 2022 football World Cup. Allegations of bribery and corruption, along with an intense focus on the country’s treatment of foreign labourers and its stance on LGBT rights, became the bane of PR experts, but an estimated $200 billion spent on infrastructure related to the World Cup wasn’t just a money-spinning attempt to varnish Qatar’s image in the eyes of the West.


“Qatar bidding was not opportunistic. There were multiple dimensions to it,” says Simon Chadwick, a professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris. Chief among them was security, with the World Cup a vehicle to build international relationships in the event of a clash between Qatar and its much larger neighbours in the Gulf.

That foreboding proved to be well placed, but not before further chunks of sport were swallowed up. Abu Dhabi — insistent that Sheikh Mansour was acting in a private capacity despite his status as a senior royal — bought Manchester City in 2008 for £150 million. They were crowned English champions four years later, after Mansour committed more than £1 billion to the club, and City Football Group, which was established in 2013, is now the world’s leading multiclub model, with a majority share in 13 teams.


When the American private equity firm Silver Lake bought a 10 per cent stake in City Football Group in 2019, it valued the business at $4.8 billion, and those who have worked with the Gulf’s sovereign wealth funds insist a return on their investment is always expected.


Qatar’s spending seemed more frivolous after it acquired Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, with the world-record signing of Neymar for €222 million in 2017 altering the established order of European football. Yet, having valued PSG at about €100 million when the takeover was completed, Qatar is similarly in discussions to sell a minority stake to American investors, with the club now valued at €4 billion. “The UAE and Qatar are roughly the same size and that has intensified the rivalry,” an adviser working in the region says. “The UAE is less brash but they’re like a spectre, they’re everywhere.”


Those political alliances were rarely more malicious than in 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar due to its alleged state sponsorship of terrorism. Regarded as a “sleeping giant” by its neighbours, Saudi Arabia had been stirred from its slumber by Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power. He “realised things needed to change very quickly,” Chadwick says.

“Saudi Arabia had become stuck in its own monarchy. The royal family was very traditional, clearly with a very austere interpretation of Islam. In terms of economic, social and political transformation, it had been very slow, and it faced a whole heap of issues, from being accused of harbouring international terrorists right through to a deficit of enterprise.”


That reformist zeal, aided by unmatched financial resources, was restrained significantly by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which rendered Saudi Arabia a global pariah. In perhaps the most blatant act of sportswashing, a series of high-profile events arrived in the country shortly afterwards, including the Saudi International golf tournament and Anthony Joshua’s rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019.


These events “helped show Saudi Arabia wasn’t as isolated as people hoped or wanted,” Ulrichsen says. “They would say it was about economic diversification and the needs of a youthful society, but obviously in terms of changing the way people think, sport can tap into loyalties and reach people in ways no other soft power can.”


Joshua, although more image-conscious than most boxers, brushed off criticism from the likes of Amnesty International after arriving in Diriyah. “For sure, the country is trying to do a good job politically,” he said. Frank Smith, the chief executive of Matchroom Boxing, Joshua’s promoter, admits the financial incentive, more than double what Joshua stood to make at Wembley Stadium, was “impossible to ignore”.

“It was a no-brainer,” he says. “Boxing is a dangerous sport and the fighters have a limited time frame to maximise their earnings. The other thing is the money put forward is all guaranteed. There is no risk.”


Another factor slowing Saudi Arabia’s sporting insurgence, however, couldn’t be resolved with unanswerable riches. Not long after the blockade on Qatar was announced, a particularly vicious dispute broke out over broadcasting rights. Qatar’s beIN Sports, which had spent roughly $15 billion acquiring exclusive broadcasting rights in the region, including to air Premier League matches, was blocked in Saudi Arabia. A piracy network named beoutQ soon emerged, which was repacking beIN’s feeds and selling them at a fraction of the cost.

BeIN accused Saudi Arabia of “state industrial theft on a wholesale scale”, after which some of its employees claimed to have been sent death threats. It was that bitter argument, rather than issues of state ownership or human rights, that held up Saudi Arabia’s takeover of Newcastle United.

A resolution to the diplomatic crisis was not reached until January 2021 and the £300 million deal in which the PIF acquired an 80 per cent stake in the Premier League club was finally concluded that same year, and famously ushered in by Newcastle supporters wearing headdresses and waving Saudi Arabian flags outside St James’ Park.


The looming World Cup in Qatar only served to heighten Saudi Arabia’s ambitions. The Ministry of Sport pursued high-profile events across football, motorsport, tennis and boxing, insisting its aim was to engage — and placate — its young population and drive rates of participation.

Rumayyan, the PIF’s golf-obsessed governor, had identified a more ambitious project, essentially copying the long-mooted “Premier Golf League” concept and reincarnating it as LIV. “Every time MBS [Mohammed bin Salman] announces a new initiative, he turns to the PIF to implement it,” Ulrichsen says. “The fact it’s so involved in golf illustrates how this comes from the very top.”

When a horde of the world’s best golfers were seduced to play in the Saudi International tournament in 2021 and 2022, no expense was spared in seducing them to abandon the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, the latter of which relies heavily on sponsorship from Dubai.

Players were invited onto a luxurious yacht and given presentations about the rebel league and the enormous wealth involved. Rumayyan sat in on key meetings to lend the proposals the required gravity. When LIV was launched in June last year, having survived Phil Mickelson’s “scary motherf***er” comments and Greg Norman’s gaffes, golf offered the added benefit of helping the Saudis to reintegrate themselves publicly in the United States.


When LIV’s third event was held at Trump Bedminster, the former president played in five-ball with his son Eric, Rumayyan, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. Afterwards, Trump dismissed a question about a 9/11 survivors’ protest group, claiming “nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately”. When Mickelson stood over his opening tee shot, one spectator shouted: “Do it for the Saudi royal family.”

“MBS had difficulties in the United States after Khashoggi’s murder, but suddenly the PIF was welcomed as an equal,” says Ulrichsen, who describes the joint interview with Rumayyan and Monahan on CNBC to announce golf’s shock merger as “probably the Saudis’ best day in the US since MBS was fêted [during his visit to the country] in 2018”.


While golf brought political capital, and the merger aided LIV’s flailing business model, the Saudis’ main focus is undoubtedly football, with the overarching goal of hosting the World Cup. “The year that has become totemic for MBS is 2030, because it’s when he’ll have achieved all his ambitions,” Ulrichsen says. “The symbolism of it makes me think Saudi will go all-out to secure the World Cup. We’re seeing a lot of Saudi sports diplomacy all over the world right now targeting votes ahead of next year, and that may lead to ramping up in football.”


There was already a strong footballing culture in Saudi Arabia, but the teams had historically been poorly run and relied on the state to write off their debts. The strongest indication of the intent to transform the Saudi Pro League into one of the world’s best was not necessarily the signing of Ronaldo by Al Nassr in December but the more recent announcement that the PIF would acquire a controlling stake in the country’s four biggest clubs.


“There is a very target-driven culture in Saudi Arabia right now, in particular on revenue generation,” Chadwick says. “There is a hope that some of those Saudi clubs will attract private equity investment from the US and inward investment too in terms of shirt sponsorship deals. The state still wants to keep control of what the clubs are doing, but it wants to promote more business-like approaches to managing its organisations.”


The speed at which Saudi Arabia has amassed sporting influence has been astonishing, despite concerns over the nature of the country’s autocratic rule. A much vaunted first professional female fight, which featured the British-Somalian boxer Ramla Ali, took place in the same week in August that Salma al-Shehab, a student at the University of Leeds, was jailed for 34 years for retweeting dissidents and activists, and other such contradictions are not hard to find. Yet, the bald reality is that it won’t deter Saudi Arabia’s assault.

“In my opinion, the only people who can defeat Saudi Arabia are the Saudi Arabians themselves, because they are trying to fast-track their development in a way that dwarfs arguably what anyone else in human history has ever attempted,” Chadwick says. Cricket and tennis are the next sports considered ripe for investment. Andy Murray recently admitted that it is “only a matter of time before we start seeing [ATP and WTA] tennis tournaments” in Saudi Arabia, and the ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has now publicly acknowledged that the governing body of the men’s tour has held talks with the PIF about possible co-investments.


It should also come as no surprise that boxing is deeper in that embrace. Joshua is at present in negotiations to face Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia, while Oleksandr Usyk, the Ukrainian heavyweight champion who defeated Joshua in Jeddah in August, has since signed a promotional contract with a state-backed boxing company. Other high-profile stars are soon expected to follow, and it’s not unimaginable that Riyadh becomes a genuine rival to boxing’s traditional Mecca of Las Vegas. “I think they are focusing on major key moments,” Smith says. “And the money there helps make these fights possible.”


Although Qatar and UAE cannot compete with Saudi Arabia, there remains the occasional reminder of the ground it has yet to make up. It is not just reflected in the gap between City and Newcastle, but Qatar’s pending acquisition of a minority stake in the parent company of the Washington Wizards NBA franchise. Saudi Arabia’s lack of a media rival to beIN Sports remains another gap in its entertainment portfolio, even if sources at the broadcaster are convinced it is inevitable that it too will eventually be bought by the PIF.


Where, if ever, will it end? The World Cup and Olympic Games are the showpiece events that can establish Saudi Arabia as a destination and alter perceptions like no other, but Chadwick posits a different theory. “Maybe there isn’t an endgame,” he says. “But for me, it will be when one of the world’s leading sports governing bodies moves its headquarters from Switzerland to Saudi Arabia. This will happen. We should envisage sometime between now and 2050 an IOC office, a Fifa office, an FIA office, opening in downtown Riyadh.”


Landmark moments in Gulf states’ takeover of sport


September 2008 Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Abu Dhabi United Group agrees a £210m deal to take over Manchester City


November 2009 The first Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix is held. Also that month, England and Brazil play a friendly in Qatar. Sir Alex Ferguson criticises the FA for arranging the fixture in what he describes as an “unknown country”.


December 2010 The 2022 World Cup is awarded to Qatar — the first time that the tournament will be hosted in the Middle East.


June 2011 The Qatari Sports Investment group, established by Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, buys a 70 per cent stake in Paris Saint-Germain. In March 2012 it fully acquires the club from US Investment fund, Colony Capital.


January 2019 The first men’s European Tour golf event in Saudi Arabia is played. Just over a year later, the first women’s European Tour golf event in Saudi is held.


November 2019 The Spanish Football Federation announces that its Supercopa de España — the equivalent to the Community Shield — will be held in Saudi Arabia for the next three years.


November 2021 The first Qatar Grand Prix takes place, followed a month later by the inaugural F1 race in Saudi Arabia. June 2022 London hosts the first event in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.


November 2022 Qatar hosts the World Cup.


Link to post
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, RANGERRAB said:

Wonder how long it will be before people realise Man city & Newcastle are state-owned clubs? Chelsea too maybe

And what action will be taken?

What state would that be?


Clearlake capital (US) a private investment firm own 60%

LA Dodgers/LA Lakers part owners Billionaires Todd Boehly/Mark Walter own 20%  

Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss Foundation own 20%


Apparently the terms that Roman Abramovitch insisted on after seeing what happened to Man Utd prevent any of the new owners from selling shares, or collecting fees or dividends from the club for a decade. There are also limits to the level of debt they can impose upon the club.

Link to post
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, ChelseaBoy said:

What state would that be?


Clearlake capital (US) a private investment firm own 60%

LA Dodgers/LA Lakers part owners Billionaires Todd Boehly/Mark Walter own 20%  

Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss Foundation own 20%


Apparently the terms that Roman Abramovitch insisted on after seeing what happened to Man Utd prevent any of the new owners from selling shares, or collecting fees or dividends from the club for a decade. There are also limits to the level of debt they can impose upon the club.

PIF(Saudi Arabia) are investors in Clearlake.

That why they’re buying up some of those players Chelsea need to get rid off to avoid FFP rules?

Link to post
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, RANGERRAB said:

PIF(Saudi Arabia) are investors in Clearlake.

That why they’re buying up some of those players Chelsea need to get rid off to avoid FFP rules?

Yes they are investors, but not owners. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.