Tuesday October 3, 2023

Saudi Arabia’s PIF Takes Over Four Domestic Pro League Clubs

  • Cristiano Ronaldo's Saudi team will now be owned by the PIF, as well as clubs linked to Benzema and Messi.
  • Attendance for the Saudi Pro League was up 150% over the past year amid its first season with Ronaldo.
The PIF now owns 75% of Saudi Pro League clubs Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, and Al-Ahli.
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has taken ownership control of four soccer clubs in the Saudi Pro League—Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, and Al-Ahli—as part of the Kingdom’s newly announced Sports Clubs Investment and Privatization Project. 

The government’s takeover of the four clubs comes as Al-Ittihad reportedly has agreed to sign Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema to a three-year deal worth $643 million. Al-Hilal has been pushing to sign superstar Lionel Messi upon his impending departure from Paris Saint-Germain. Al Nassr signed Cristiano Ronaldo to a record-setting contract in January. 

Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, and Al-Hilal finished first, second, and third, respectively, in the Saudi Pro League this past season. Al-Ahli is historically a successful top-tier club but was relegated last year.

The clubs are being restructured as private companies that will each be 75% owned by the PIF. Each club’s nonprofit foundation will hold the remaining 25% ownership stake. 

“The transfer of the four clubs will unleash various commercial opportunities, including investment, partnership, and sponsorships across numerous sports,” said the Public Investment Fund, which also owns English Premier League club Newcastle United and LIV Golf.

Saudi Arabia’s national press agency said attendance for the Saudi Pro League increased nearly 150% over the past year, its first with Ronaldo. The country’s new sports privatization project aims to increase the market value of the Saudi Pro League from its current $800 million to 2.1 billion by 2030. Commercial revenue from the league reached $119 million in 2022, but the government’s project aims to increase that figure to $480 million annually. 

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