Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Minister of Sports, has said his government will definitely back any bid from the country’s private sector for Manchester United or Liverpool.
While Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund backed the purchase of Newcastle United last winter, Prince Abdulaziz said his country’s private companies are keenly interested in the most successful clubs in English football, with both having gave instructions to the banks regarding a possible investment or sale.
“From the private sector, I can’t speak for them, but there is a lot of interest, appetite and passion for football,” he told BBC Sport. “It’s the most watched league in Arabia and the region and you have a lot of Premier League fans. We will definitely support it where appropriate. [Saudi] the private sector is stepping in, as we know this will have a positive impact on sports within the kingdom. If there’s an investor willing to do it and the numbers add up, why not? »
The prince also expressed a wish to see Cristiano Ronaldo play in Saudi Arabia. The 37-year-old is a free agent after leaving United by mutual agreement this week and he recently said he turned down a two-year deal this summer worth over £300m per year with a Saudi club.
“I would love to see Ronaldo play in the Saudi league,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “It would benefit the league, the Saudi sports ecosystem and inspire young people for the future. He is a role model for many kids and has a big fan base in Saudi Arabia.
Ronaldo scored in Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana at the Qatar World Cup on Thursday and Saudi Arabia could make their own bid to host the tournament. “Who wouldn’t want to host the World Cup? said the prince. “Any country in the world would love to host the World Cup.”
By hosting major sporting events, including world boxing title fights, Saudi Arabia has been accused of sportwashing to deflect criticism of its human rights record. But Prince Abdulaziz said it had been positive for the people of his country.
“The numbers don’t lie – when you look at boxing attendance, from six gyms in 2018 to 57 gyms today. A 300% increase in attendance, 60% are women, which was a shock to us. “When you see the appetite of young men and women, they’ve learned from it. If it improves the country and solves a lot of the social problems we have in terms of participation, that’s a benefit for us,” did he declare.