LONDON // The chairman of the Saudi Professional League, Dr Hafez Almadleh, yesterday revealed that he had never heard of Ali al Faraj before his purchase of Portsmouth. Al Faraj, a Saudi, bought 90 per cent of the English Premier League club from the Emirati businessman Sulaiman al Fahim last weekend. It raised eyebrows in the United Kingdom, as al Fahim had only completed his purchase of the club five weeks earlier and al Faraj has no public profile. He is hardly better known in his homeland.
"I hope al Faraj has success, but we never heard of this guy," said Almadleh. "When I heard about the deal, I asked my friends and no one knows him." There could be further Saudi ownership in the Premier League, with Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah Al Saud interested in buying into Liverpool. "In one year, if these two deals went ahead and there was no backfire and everyone was settled, I am sure at least 10 more investors will come," said Almadleh.
"That is not necessarily to the Premier League, but a lower league and trying to bring them up. Last year I had some people interested in Championship clubs. Their specific needs are they wanted a club whose average crowd is high, facilities are good and a club in London. "With the clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham, maybe they will talk about buying a share. "Prince Faisal has money. He is a guy with a sports mentality, he is passionate about football and he is successful in business."
The Saudi interest follows on from Sheikh Mansour's takeover at Manchester City which propelled Abu Dhabi into the spotlight. The Middle East was in the centre of attention at yesterday's Leaders in Football Conference with a focus on Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, chairman of the bid team, appealed to the sport's governing body Fifa. "Why not open your doors to the Middle East in the same way you opened doors to Africa," he said.
"Fifa is always saying, 'for the game, for the world', but there are not enough of these games experienced in the Middle East. We just ask Fifa to give us this chance. We think it is an ideal region to host it and one that needs it." @Email:email@example.com