He has been an obsessive player of American fantasy football. Now, at Sheffield United, Prince Adbullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al Saud will do it for real.
English football had long awaited its first investment from the Saudi Arabian royal family but few anticipated it would be made in a team that is 17 in League One and not even the biggest club in its own city.
Prince Abdullah may have paid just a pound to by a 50 per cent stake in Sheffield United but the 47-year-old grandson of King Abdulaziz will be expected to spend substantially more.
Sheffield United’s chairman, Kevin McCabe, who gave away half his stake in the club’s parent company, Blades Leisure, said he expected the prince’s investment to be “substantial” and “game changing”.
McCabe said it had been written into the legal protocols of the agreement that Sheffield United would be expected to become a Premier League club as soon as practicable. Since 1994, United have spent just a single season in English football’s top division.
The future of managers who are in place when these kinds of deals are done is usually limited. However, David Weir, who was appointed in June as Sheffield United’s seventh manager is six years, has already made a presentation to the prince. The new era began last night with a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture at Scunthorpe.
McCabe, who claims his family has spent £90m on the club, has attempted to increase revenues with a hotel at Bramall Lane and tie-ups with the Hungarian side, Ferencvaros. However, this deal for which he said he had not received “a red cent” would see investment targeted squarely on the first-team squad.
Prince Abdullah, who owns the Beverly Hills mansion once occupied by Kelsey Grammer, the star of Frasier, is an obvious candidate to become the first Saudi investor in English football. A friendship with the grandson of former US president, Jimmy Carter, suggests he is more liberal than some members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family and his interest in sport is longstanding – he always attends the Super Bowl and was in charge of Saudi Arabia’s biggest football club, Al Hilal.
He is said to play NFL fantasy football obsessively and one of those who has seen him in action describes the prince as “very good at uncovering names that aren’t well known”. The club he now co-chairs must hope it is a habit that continues.Reuse content