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More Saudi football clubs to go private: ministry

More Saudi football clubs to go private: ministry

Friday, July 05, 2024, 11:57 GMT+7
More Saudi football clubs to go private: ministry
Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al Nassr on a lucrative contract. Photo: AFP

Four more Saudi Pro League football clubs are up for privatisation, the sports ministry said, after last year's sale of four top teams sparked a billion-dollar spending spree on foreign stars.

Al Okhdood, Al Orouba and Al Kholoud are available for privatisation in August, plus another three clubs from the second and third tiers, a statement said late on Wednesday.

Pro League outfit Al Riyadh and seven lower-division clubs will follow "at a later stage", the ministry said, for a total of 14 teams going private.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), the top oil exporter's sovereign wealth vehicle, took a majority stake in Al Hilal, Al Nassr, Al Ahli and Al Ittihad last year.

The four Pro League clubs have signed superstars including Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar on eye-watering contracts.

Saudi clubs, led by the four owned by PIF, spent $957 million in last year's summer transfer window, second only to the English Premier League.

However, it resulted in a lop-sided season highlighted by Al Hilal's top-flight world record of 34 straight wins in all competitions.

Al Okhdood, Al Orouba and Al Kholoud, all in the 18-team Pro League next season, and Al Zulfi, Al Nahda and Al Ansar were selected for the next round based on their "operational readiness, financial health, administrative capabilities, and athletic facilities", the ministry said.

It said the initial privatisations had prompted "significant commercial revenue growth" for the Pro League, with the target now raised to 1.8 billion Saudi riyals ($480 million) a year.

"This (privatisation) initiative showcases the commitment to accelerating the transformation of the sports sector," the statement said.

The conservative kingdom is investing heavily in sport as it tries to reshape its staid image and attract tourists and investment to diversify the oil-reliant economy.

Saudi Arabia, which already hosts F1 races and world heavyweight boxing fights, is the sole bidder for the 2034 football World Cup and funds the LIV Tour that has upended professional golf.

Saudi money has "completely changed the market" for football transfers, Pep Guardiola, manager of English champions Manchester City, said last year.

AFP

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