Saudi Arabia’s Failed Soccer Club Bid Reemerges

    • A Saudi Arabia-led investment group was set to buy Newcastle United last year.
    • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied a report that he was involved in the deal.

A group of investors led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund agreed to buy popular soccer club Newcastle United last April, then withdrew from the process after human rights organizations objected to the country’s involvement and put pressure on the Premier League.

On the record, Saudi Arabia has only said that the $415 million deal collapsed because the process was long and full of challenges.

However, Daily Mail reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman contacted Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the deal was blocked and said that U.K.-Saudi relations would be strained if Johnson did not intervene to “correct” the Premier League’s “wrong” decision. 

Last week, a representative for Johnson said the U.K. Prime Minister asked a senior aide to “check on the progress of the talks” but “did not ask him to intervene.”

“While we welcome overseas investment, this was a commercial matter for the parties concerned, and the government was not involved at any point,” the rep added.

In February, leaked documents revealed that Real Madrid has discussed a $182 million partnership with the Saudi-owned Qiddiya project. Formula One’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix debuts this year, and the country has a three-year, $145 million deal with the Spanish Football Federation to host matches, among other sports initiatives.

Saudi Arabia’s $400 billion Public Investment Fund has been pouring money into international markets in general, including a $3.3 billion investment in major U.S. video game companies.