Friday, September 19, 2008

Cost of English clubs will not deter fresh Gulf bids

DUBAI: The cost of buying an English soccer team will not deter Gulf Arab investors, experts said as media speculation over a fresh bid for a club heats up.

Championship club Burnley is the latest to be linked to investment from the Gulf Arab states after majority owner Brendan Flood said he wanted to bring Middle Eastern funding and players to the northern-based team.

"It's a club with super-sized ambition and we need an investor with a super-sized check book," Flood told Dubai-based magazine, Arabian Business. "It could help fulfil a lot for us."

His comments come after this month's takeover of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi investors amid media reports of interest by United Arab Emirates businessmen in other Premier League clubs.

Dubai Investment Group , owned by the emirate's ruler, said on Wednesday it was not involved in any negotiations to buy Newcastle United and does not plan to do so in the future.

On Sunday, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley said he had put the club up for sale after coming under pressure from the fans following popular coach Kevin Keegan's resignation.

"I don't think it's a question of cost," said Mustafa Alani, senior adviser at Dubai-based think tank Gulf Research Centre .

"I don't think they will jump to another deal until the first one becomes clear in terms of image and investment," he said referring to the Manchester City takeover.

Arab control

"There are people who are not happy with the negative image appearing in some of the British media ... of Arabs coming to control English football."

Alani added that investors would more likely wait and see whether there would be any long-term commercial benefit from buying a football club following the Manchester City deal.

"In reality, nobody knows what price Mike Ashley wants for Newcastle United," said Ben Hatton chief executive of sports consultancy Alexander Ross and former director of commercial enterprises at Manchester United.

"Ultimately, the value will be decided by a willing investor ... It's a big brand and it fills its stands week in week out. Newcastle United is very attractive," he said.

Dubai International Capital , DIG's sister company, ruled out on Monday a fresh bid for Liverpool or other clubs and said it was not aware of any other interest from the Gulf Arab emirate.

England's Premier League, underwritten by domestic and global TV deals worth more than a billion pounds , has become Europe's dominant league in the last decade with many of the world's top players earning huge salaries at the major clubs.

Mohammed Ali al-Hashimi, executive chairman of Zabeel Investments, which was part of the Dubai consortium trying to buy Liverpool and has been linked this week to Newcastle told Reuters on Sept 4 his firm was no longer looking at football as valuations had risen.

Hashimi was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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