According to Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, his government would support private bids from Saudi Arabia for Manchester United and Liverpool.
Despite the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s backing for Newcastle United last winter, Prince Abdulaziz said private businesses in his country are keen on the most successful English clubs, with both instructing banks about possible investments or sales.
“From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest, appetite, and passion about football,” he told BBC Sport. It has the highest viewership in Saudi Arabia and the region, and there are many fans of the Premier League. If any [Saudi] private sector comes into the sports industry, we will support it, knowing that this will improve sports in Saudi Arabia.
The prince also stated a wish to see Cristiano Ronaldo play in Saudi. He recently revealed he turned down a two-year deal worth more than £300m a year from a Saudi club in the summer, which would have made him a free agent after leaving United by mutual agreement this week.
“I would love to see Ronaldo play in the Saudi league,” said Prince Abdulaziz. “It would benefit the league and the sports eco-system in Saudi and will inspire the youth for the future. He’s a role model to many kids and has a big fanbase in Saudi.”
Saudi hosts the tournament, and Ronaldo scored in Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday at the World Cup in Qatar. “Prince said who doesn’t want to host the World Cup? World Cup hosting would be a dream for any country worldwide.”
Several major sporting events, including boxing world title fights, are being held in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has been accused of sport washing to deflect criticism of its human rights record, and Prince Abdulaziz claimed that doing so was positive for the people of his country.
“The numbers don’t lie from six gyms in 2018 to 57 gyms today – when you look at boxing participation. There was a 300% participation increase, and 60% were women, which shocked us. Young men, women, and children learned from their appetites. We would benefit if it improved the country and fixed many of the issues we have with participation,” he said.