Saudi Arabia launches sports club privatisation project as football league grabs world stars
From the last quarter of this year, a number of Saudi sports clubs will be offered the privatisation plan, SPA said.
The project's launch came amid reports that long-time Real Madrid star Karim Benzema would be signing a two-year contract with Saudi club Al-Ittihad.
Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo was the first world-class player to make the move to a Saudi club, signing a two-year contract with Al-Nassr in January. Argentine Leo Messi is reportedly close to joining the Saudi Pro League, according to reports.
Though Monday's deal indicates that Saudi football is trying to attract private investment, it appears state funds will also be used to lure players in.
The sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF) will own 75 percent of four of the Saudi Pro League's top teams - Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr, and Al Hilal, the sports ministry said on Twitter on Monday following the SPA report.
Deals to secure world-famous players for the Saudi Pro League could potentially be funded by the kingdom’s sovereign PIF, the The New York Times reported Saturday.
A source close to the Saudi football transfer negotiations told AFP that Karim Benzema and Messi were on a list of "more than 10" top-level player targets, rumoured to include Luka Modric and Hugo Lloris.
The source said that Saudi authorities are "in contact with more than 10 players, many of them won the World Cup or the Champions League, to join the Saudi league next season".
Among the World Cup and Champions League winners reportedly lined up for a move to the Saudi Pro League are Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, N'Golo Kante, Angel Di Maria and Roberto Firmino.
The potential lucrative deals could require an excess of $1 billion for wages for 20 global players, according to The New York Times.
The Saudi project announced Monday is part of Saudi Vision 2030, the kingdom's strategic plan for development by the end of the decade.
Riyadh's PIF has invested in several major sporting projects and institutions, including English club Newcastle United and the LIV golf league.
SPA said the privatisation plan aims to bring the Saudi Pro League into the world's top 10 leagues. It said it is also hoped that the league's revenue would more than double, from 3 billion Saudi riyals to 8 billion.