Sports

‘Why not?’ Saudi Arabia minister’s huge Man Utd ownership call and Newcastle position

Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal ruled out the transfer of Manchester United, which is supported by the Public Investment Fund. News broke this week that the unpopular Glazer family may be heading for the Old Trafford exit.

The debt-financed takeover in 2005 – which saddled the Red Devils with £550m in debt – proved to be a disaster with supporters from day one. A showdown against Liverpool last year was halted by vitriolic protests, and anger at the American family grew over the summer.

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The Glazers released a statement earlier this week hinting at the end of their 17-year reign. “The strength of Manchester United depends on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” the statement read. “As we seek to continue to build on the club’s history of success, the Board has authorized a comprehensive assessment of strategic alternatives.

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“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we are providing the best service to our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future. Throughout this process, we will remain fully focused on serving the interests of our fans, shareholders and various stakeholders.”

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Unsurprisingly, this ad brought several potential candidates out of the shadows. British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe – ranked Britain’s richest man four years ago – expressed early interest after failing to secure a deal for Chelsea in May.

However, comments from Prince Abdulaziz hinted at the possibility of investing in the Middle East. The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) acquired an 80 percent stake in Newcastle United when Mike Ashley sold the club last October.

The following year, the takeover turned the club from relegation favorites into Champions League contenders. Any possible Saudi deal to buy Man United will set off alarm bells within the Newcastle fan base.

But according to the Premier League fit and proper people test, PIF would be disqualified from buying another top flight club. Their stake in the Magpies will have to be reduced to 30 per cent to avoid a conflict of interest.

Abdulaziz – who says there is no government involvement in the PIF – insisted the Saudi ‘focus’ remained committed to Newcastle but welcomed private investment at Old Trafford. Speaking at the World Cup, he told The Times: “The Public Investment Fund has just invested in Newcastle and we’re focused on that. If there’s a private investor who wants to come in, why not?”

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“I think it is a good opportunity and if the numbers increase, if we can all benefit from that from a business perspective, why not? If there is an opportunity that benefits us, I will encourage the private sector to do so.”

“Newcastle, as a club, are benefiting from this purchase and I think Manchester United or any other club will look at these opportunities. We don’t have an offer at the time we are talking about, or that we have announced. In the future, if the possibilities are open and there is a good chance of hosting such an event The benefits will be huge for Saudi Arabia and the region.”

The Minister of Sports also discussed the possibility of Saudi Arabia hosting the World Cup in the near future. A possible joint bid with Egypt and Greece for 2030 has been discussed.

Prince Abdulaziz added, “We saw this with Qatar hosting the World Cup in our region, so the future is definitely bright for Saudi Arabia. We hope to show that we can host such an event in the future. Right now, we are focusing on bids for the 2027 Asian Cup and the Asian Cup.” for women 2026.”

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