Saudi Sports Washing

by   |   07/06/2023  26 Comments  [Jump to last]

I know that many will have no interest in what's happening in the World of golf where the Saudi-financed LIV Golf tour has, in all but name, taken over the world of golf. 

They set out to break up the PGA and the DP World tours and now both the PGA and the DP World tours have got into bed with LIV Golf – something they said they would never do. 

Why should football fans be worried about what has happened in golf?

Because the Saudis have said that they will pump in £20 billion over the next 5 years to make their league the best in the world. Just like they did in golf, they are offering eye-watering amounts to high-profile players who may be past their best, starting with Ronaldo, and are now adding Benzema and Kante and possibly Messi as well.

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Then, over the next 5 years, they will increase the quality of players till many of the world's top players will play in their leagues. That is when they will want and get their teams to qualify for Champions League places and if Uefa refuse them entry, they will set up their own league – as nearly happened with the Euro Super League.

Although that never got off the ground, the main objection to the Super League was because there was no promotion or relegation. Let's face it, many of the clubs in Europe are getting into debt to keep their top players. 

If the Saudis offer unbelievable amounts to play in their league, you can bet the same teams that eventually turned their back on the Super League will be only too willing to join, as will their players whose salaries will be increased enormously. 

Already, there is talk of a boxing tournament in Saudi Arabia were the top 6 or 8 of the world's heavyweights will fight in a tournament over a couple of months; again the money will be too good to turn down. So this will in time mean the Saudis will control football, golf and boxing. Do we really want such a repressive country controlling all our sports?

For those that don't believe this will happen, I hope you are right… but let's not forget that, when the Saudis decided to purchase Newcastle Utd, they warned the British government not to block their move; otherwise, they would withdraw their deal to buy arms and aircraft from the government – trade which is worth hundreds of billions. 

Finally, I find it unbelievable that a country where the majority of the 9/11 bombers lived are having such an unhealthy impact on all our sports.

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Reader Comments (26)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 07/06/2023 at 15:18:13

In my limited understanding, the PGA and DP World tours objected to LIV Golf on exactly the grounds you cite…

That was until they magically executed a volte-face that John Stones would be proud of, and jumped into bed with LIV Golf, hook, line and sinker. (Ooops, too many metaphors!)

And there's only one reason that happened: Money… Money and Power. (Oh, two reasons.)

The great thing about spouting hypothetical scenarios is that no-one can say you're wrong.

But I'm just not convinced about this 'sportswashing' claim. Seems just a little bit too easy to jump on that bandwagon.

Is that the real reason they are doing it? Or is sport in all its guises an ever more lucrative business arena as more and more people get involved, as more and more money is provided, as exposure on television increases exponentially, as more and more prestige is sought and won?

Is this monetisation of sport just awful, as so many on here claim? Or is it just progress, the relentless drumbeat of evolution and change that those same folks seem so dead set against?

But isn't this what they tried in China with the Chinese Super League? Huge wages would tempt the best players and managers from Europe? How's that working so far?

Barry Hesketh
2 Posted 07/06/2023 at 15:37:59
I'm more concerned about what's happened in Rugby Union, with London Irish the latest club to be sanctioned by the Rugby Football Union.

A third club in just seven months suspended from the Premiership due to financial issues as London Irish suffer the same fate as Worcester Warriors and Wasps before them; a proposed takeover by American consortium has not happened, with no evidence of financial ability to continue next season.

Analysis from Sky Sports News' James Cole…

"This is the news we expected but also feared.

"This is a very sad day for London Irish, a club with 125 years' history. They finished fifth in the Premiership this season, they have got a brilliant Academy, some outstanding players but unfortunately the club's financial issues have just caught up with them, as we've seen with Worcester and Wasps previously this season.

"You wonder now what the RFU and what Premiership Rugby are going to do to ensure some sustainability for the other clubs. The current financial model of Premiership Rugby is that the clubs lose money and they are reliant on benefactors to pump money into the clubs - when those benefactors say enough is enough, the clubs are going under.

"It is not sustainable, something needs to be done."

How long will it be before major football clubs start to go to the wall? Or are the Profitability and Sustainability rules sufficient to prevent that from happening?

Dale Self
3 Posted 07/06/2023 at 15:47:26
I’ll politely wait for this to heat up before I get excited but a couple of things should be considered. Golf and Boxing are not precursors they are similar demographics in decline Neither of these sports have teams which makes for easier disruption.

Also, the Saudis have lost a lot a value in their investments and public image asset buys. If this was investment for returns please state how the Saudis plan to turn it around. Or maybe explain theit infinite time horizon for the payoffs.

I do think some evaluation is good so that later they can’t claim how brill it was since it was nevet aboit the monetary returns.

James Marshall
4 Posted 07/06/2023 at 15:51:38
I read Benzema is being paid £345m over 2 years.

First of all, I have no comprehension of what those numbers mean in real terms. My tiny brain can't cope with the amount of zeros that entails or what 345m of anything actually looks like.

And secondly, what on earth is he going to do with that kind of money, start his own country?

Mike Gaynes
5 Posted 07/06/2023 at 16:11:47
Brian, you missed the most stunning aspect of the Saudi football investment -- on Monday the Public Investment Fund, new owners of Newcastle, simply took over ownership control of four top Saudi clubs... Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, and Al-Ahli.

No purchase, no negotiation, just GULP and it's done. The objective is to dramatically raise the profile and playing quality of the league in order to buttress SA's bid for the 2030 World Cup. Qatar got one, so they want one.

Michael #1, there's no comparison to China. The Super League was a toy for big Chinese corporations. Although some of those companies are/were partially government-owned, there was no direct government involvement or investment. And obviously there was no unlimited oil money. This is a direct Saudi government initiative supported by limitless funds.

Alan J Thompson
6 Posted 07/06/2023 at 17:29:48
Perhaps just testing the veracity of the old adage that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Michael Kenrick
7 Posted 07/06/2023 at 19:44:24

I see there are 16 teams in the Chinese Super League, which started less than 20 years ago, in 2004.

And there are an incredible 20 teams that are no longer part of it, with 19 of them defunct! That's a heck of a drop-out rate!

How's Li Tie doing? I hope he's not still in prison…

David Nicholls
8 Posted 07/06/2023 at 19:56:47
Maybe the ‘Shady Six’ should piss off to some Saudi breakaway league where the worlds Elite soccer franchises (and Tottenham) can battle it out over 60 minutes with Lady Gaga playing the half-time show and Jake Paul coming on as a last minute super-sub and scoring the winner for the Manchester Devils….
Kieran Kinsella
9 Posted 07/06/2023 at 20:07:31

I don't see the Saudi league being a long term problem for the rest of the world. Short-term certainly they will rope in some big names just as China did, the MLS and the J league have in the past. But fundamentally, there is only one team in their league that attracts crowds over 30,000. 11 of the teams average less than 9,000. There isn't the level of interest there due to various factors including the fact it's boiling hot, they've no history etc As Mike pointed out the investment fund just acquired the top four clubs. That wouldn't fly in the champions league with ownership rules. Presently there is controversy there as Ronaldo is illegally living with his gf. Clerics have called for his arrest. The Crown Prince is walking a delicate tightrope making exceptions for him, and others whilst clinging to power with support from hardline clerics. There's a decent chance of political upheaval which would disrupt more than the league.

Brent Stephens
10 Posted 07/06/2023 at 22:18:33
Saudi Arabia relies almost solely on oil revenue for its national income. I assume that, as oil production inevitably declines, the Saudis need to move to alternative revenue streams. Is this one part of that jigsaw?
Jack Convery
11 Posted 08/06/2023 at 13:37:02
Brent you are spot on. They are thinking in the long term. If they do manage to get a league of superstars they can sell the TV rights around the World and rake in the money. Crowd sizes won't matter. Players and agents will follow the money - Messi the exception, who has chosen lifestyle first and foremost - (he can afford to). Might take a while but in my humble opinion it's coming.
Eric Myles
12 Posted 08/06/2023 at 14:07:22
Brent #10, you hit the nail on the head.

Except that oil revenues are not so important now since they sold their oil futures long ago.

When I was working in Kuwait 40ish years ago I knew some guys from the Kuwaiti Investment Board who told me Kuwait were seriously looking at stopping oil production as they were making more money from other investments.

Saudi is not far behind.

Dale Self
13 Posted 08/06/2023 at 14:10:38
Brent, Sonnenfeld(?) at Yale speculates that you may be right in rhe long term. We are obviously in a grey area where MBS ego is in ascension but the future will be a challenge. Folding into the PGA limits their sunk costs while the objective seems achieved.

I get the feeling the PL is reviewing their relations with clubs as they take on clients with baggage. The chance of a runaway league is declining as siperstar player status is limited. They can only sparkle fans’ eyes with a Messi or Ronaldo. You can’t just give someone a star billing, they must have proven themselves somewhere the Saudis aren’t in charge. Maybe a clause terminating payments to defectors could be used.

And finally if they do get a league it will be Primadonna FC v Sporting Tiki Taka Caca. The players will have such power that they will influence refereeing standards. Minimization of injuries will be ruthlessly pursued to the detriment of the product. I’d rather see real football with some spirited tackles thank you very much.

Kevin Molloy
14 Posted 08/06/2023 at 14:48:33
wouldn't it be awful if Geordie Arabia decided in a couple of years to shift their club back to the homeland. I wonder how many geordies would go with them
Mark Boullé
15 Posted 08/06/2023 at 15:18:36
Mike Gaynes #5

Yes exactly, this seems extraordinary. We don't know all the details, but how on earth can a league be fair, competitive or free of rampant conflicts of interest where the same state investment fund owns 4 of its top teams...?! There would be uproar / meltdown here if HM Government decided to acquire City, Arsenal, Man United and Newcastle (to take this year's top 4)...

Will Mabon
16 Posted 08/06/2023 at 15:30:27
If anyone needed reminding that the reality of money only really applies to those with not so much of it, take a look at N'Golo Kante's deal to join Al-Ittihad.

£86M per year. Playing or not, awake or asleep, £9,817 per hour (OK it reduces to 9,790 in a leap year, so there is that). For a player winding down in his career.

This Monopoly-on-steroids "money" would be alright if it operated somewhat horizontally in its own world but it doesn't. It reaches down like a huge vacuum cleaner and sucks up all the value and energy from below in much the same way globalism is stealing life away right now.

It's getting hard to feel comfortable about this whole circus.

Will Mabon
17 Posted 08/06/2023 at 15:35:33
James @ 4,

Benzema's deal works out at almost exactly double Kante's figures, above post.

Mike Gaynes
18 Posted 08/06/2023 at 16:08:00
Michael #7, I've seen virtually nothing about Li Tie since he was arrested last November, a year after being sacked as their national team coach. I would guess he's in custody, but given how the legal process now works in China, I assume the next thing we hear about him will be his conviction and sentence.

I ran across -- but forgot to post -- this article about the Chinese TV coverage of the game 20 years ago between Everton and City featuring Li Tie and Sun Jihai, at a time when we were wildly popular in China.

The Chinese Super League, founded the following year, obviously became as large a mess as their national team. Apparently there was massive corruption in the corporations that sponsored the teams in many cities. It probably would have benefited from more government domination like we're seeing in Saudi Arabia.

A new league rule prohibits the signing of old foreign players -- signees have to be under 30. The last big-name foreigner I heard about playing there is Oscar from Chelsea, still playing for Shanghai Port, where our old friend Tyias Browning also now plies his trade.

Mike Gaynes
19 Posted 08/06/2023 at 16:09:07
Will, those numbers are amazing... yet not really when you consider the limitless funds available there.
Danny O’Neill
20 Posted 08/06/2023 at 16:58:10
I'm not sure, but there is definitely increased interest in football from the Middle East. The Saudi investment in Newcastle, the Qatar World Cup.

If true let's watch and see. It could end being another China experiment, or like the predecessor to the MLS in the States during the late 70s?

You touch on apoint Michael.

The UK has big defence contracts with Saudi. Selling capability, a permanent military presence providing training and guidance. We even deployed troops to help them protect oil fields.

All open source.

Danny O’Neill
21 Posted 08/06/2023 at 17:00:42
I'm not sure, but there is definitely increased interest in football from the Middle East. The Saudi investment in Newcastle, the Qatar World Cup.

If true let's watch and see. It could end being another China experiment, or like the predecessor to the MLS in the States during the late 70s?

You touch on apoint Michael.

The UK has big defence contracts with Saudi. Selling capability, a permanent military presence providing training and guidance. We even deployed troops to help them protect oil fields.

All open source.

Will Mabon
22 Posted 08/06/2023 at 20:37:21

it doesn't seem so long ago that some of the big sports pay deals of several million in the 'States bordered on the unbelievable. This now, is bananas.

John Pickles
23 Posted 08/06/2023 at 21:04:05
I hope the top players do go and play in Saudi Arabia, it means we don't have to face them week in week out. The Saudis sure aren't going to decimate our squad.
Trevor Powell
24 Posted 22/06/2023 at 11:27:35
Brent @ 10. Even if the oil runs out in the Middle East, they have one source of free natural energy ie constant sunshine plus plenty of wide open spaces for the biggest solar energy installations.

These countries offer zilch to the progess of the world and its problems through their own ingenuity!

Trevor Powell
25 Posted 22/06/2023 at 11:34:24
On another tack, the Saudi Clubs with Geordie connections have a foolproof and legitimate way of beating FFP in PL and UEFA as shown by the purchase of £47 million Neves from Wolves and then the proposed loan to Newcastle for the next two years. Will NUFC be paying 100% of his wages, I think not?

Perhaps, Moshiri should buy a team from Azerbaijan and try tempting Mbappe and loaning him to EFC?

Barry Hesketh
26 Posted 22/06/2023 at 12:56:30
Trevor @25,

I thought that was the case too, buy a player for £47M and then immediately loan him out to a 'friendly' club. These super powered clubs will run rings round the authorities in the next few years.

Chelsea have had a go already and doubtless the other rich clubs will begin to do similar things to circumvent the rules, which it would seem only the less well funded clubs have to abide by.

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