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HomeEconomySaudi Arabia passes four domestic football teams to a state fund

Saudi Arabia passes four domestic football teams to a state fund


The Saudi government has transferred ownership of four top domestic football teams to its big-pocketed state fund, providing more financial firepower for the country’s ambitious plans in the sport.

The Public Investment Fund said on Monday that Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Hilal and Al Nassr – where Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo plays – had been converted into corporate entities, previously run by the state. The $600 billion fund will own 75 percent of each of the four clubs, with the remaining shares held by new not-for-profit foundations.

The move to change the ownership structure of the biggest domestic clubs coincides with an effort to bring more top players to the country. Since Ronaldo arrived in January, lucrative offers have reportedly been made to Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain Lionel Messi and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema. The trio are among the greatest footballers of the past 20 years, although they all approaching the end of their careers. Messi already has a promotional deal with Visit Saudi, the country’s tourism agency.

The Saudi news agency said the changes at the four clubs were designed to attract investment into the sport, improve competitiveness in the league and make the game more professional and financially sustainable. Riyadh wants the Saudi Pro League to become one of the top 10 leagues in the world and hopes the privatization project will help quadruple annual revenue in the league to 1.8 billion rials ($480 million), SPA said.

PIF said the new structure would “unleash several commercial opportunities” and allow for “further investment and sponsorship”.

The wealth fund, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is driving the country’s economic reform plan to diversify revenues away from oil. It has acquired or invested in companies ranging from electric vehicle manufacturers to construction companies and green energy.

Saudi Arabia has poured money into sports worldwide, including football, Formula 1 and a $2 billion attack on golf. LIV Golf, now in its second year, has been trying to disrupt the sport by luring some of its best-known players onto its Rebel tour with huge reward packages.

Riyadh also launched an events investment fund for culture and sports in January.

Soccer is a particular focus due to its popularity both at home and globally. PIF led the £310m takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United in 2021. Under Saudi ownership, the team has risen quickly in the league table and qualified for next year’s Champions League after finishing above Manchester United and Liverpool .

In a sign of Saudi ambitions in the sport, PIF has pledged more than $2 billion in long-term sponsorship deals in the national league.

Saudi Arabia has also been mentioned as a potential host for the World Cup, following the successful tournament held in neighboring Qatar late last year.

Additional reporting by Samer Al-Atrush in Riyadh

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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