Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has reportedly entered into discussions with four teams from England’s Premiership rugby union competition over significant investment.
The fund, which purchased English Premier League soccer side Newcastle United in 2021, is said to be in talks with the Newcastle Falcons, Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Gloucester over as much as £60m ($76m) in investment.
This would involve the PIF taking on not only naming rights to the sides’ stadiums, but also working with the clubs on establishing a rugby academy in Saudi Arabia – all of this would come with the PIF taking a shareholding in each team.
It would be a financial boon to the cash-strapped league, in which three teams that began the 2022-23 season failed to be present for the start of the 2023-24 campaign due to a lack of available funds.
Wasps, London Irish and Worcester Warriors have all been expelled from the competition over the past 10 months, and the top team in the second-tier championship competition, the Jersey Reds, were ineligible to enter the league due to similar financial troubles, and have since ceased trading.
Despite this, the move will likely cause controversy, both over competitive balance on the pitch and ethical issues off it.
Since being set up, the PIF has engaged in deals in its priority sports of soccer, golf, motor racing, horse racing and boxing, which have totalled at least $7.68bn, according to GlobalData research.
Overall, the PIF aims to create 1.8 million jobs and generate $1.07tn in assets under management – as well as $320bn in cumulative non-oil GDP, but many point to underhanded motives such as using sport to sanitise the country’s image through “sportswashing”.
You might also like...
A MEED Subscription...
Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.