Saudi Arabia Manchester United takeover plans denied again

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has denied he is looking to buy Manchester United after rumours of a takeover emerged again.

Mohammed Bin Salman’s media minister, Turki al-Shabanah, admitted that there had been a meeting between the Saudi public investment fund (PIF) and the Premier League club but that it was to discuss sponsorship.

“Manchester United held a meeting with PIF Saudi to discuss [a] sponsorship opportunity,” Shabanah said, before adding that no deal materialised from the meeting.

The media minister was reacting to reports in the British newspaper, The Sun, which said the prince was planning a £3.8bn ($4.9bn) takeover of the club.

This is the second time stories have emerged of a Saudi takeover of the Manchester club. In October last year, Manchester United moved to deny a story that appeared in British newspaper the Daily Star claiming that a deal was in the making. The Manchester United share price surged five per cent on Wall Street as a result of the rumours, even though the story referenced “football forums and Twitter” as its source.

The General Sports Authority (GSA) of Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Manchester United in October 2017 through which the club agreed to help develop the kingdom’s football industry as part of its 2030 Vision.

Vision 2030 is Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s plan to diversify the Saudi economy and develop the country’s public sectors.

Rights-holders have come under pressure to break ties with Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s embassy in Istanbul. The European Tour was criticised for hosting an event in the kingdom in January, while BeIN Media Group called on Italy’s top-tier football division Serie A to reconsider its decision to stage the Italian Super Cup in Jeddah, accusing the country of backing the piracy of live sports coverage.