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The complex relationship between Saudi Arabia and UAE that could soon shape the Premier League

Subject to pending Premier League approval in the coming days, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund would take an 80 per cent stake in the club, with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Saudi Public investment fund, in line to be nominated chairman of Newcastle. Middle East sources confirmed Al-Rumayyan is in the crown prince’s “inner circle” and described the key advisor as a calmer, more experienced hand than MBS. “The Saudis are actually the most passionate about football in the Gulf,” said Prof Krieg. Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Limited, meanwhile, will take 10 per cent with the final 10 per cent being acquired by one of Britain’s wealthiest families, the Reuben Brothers.

For UAE, meanwhile, and the owners of Man City, there is a strategic advantage to seeing Saudi attempt the same foreign adventures, but failing: it makes them look good. “There is real instability in Saudi whereas the UAE are very good financial planners,” Gatnash added. “They built this over 40 years in the middle of the desert and they now have substantial non-oil-related incomes. Saudi doesn’t, however, and yet they are entering this long-term project at Newcastle.”

Bill Law, a Middle East analyst who is editor of the Arab Digest, said MBZ had repeatedly proven himself the “older and wiser head”. “By and large, my view is that MBZ basically got what MBS was about,” he said. “MBS craves the limelight. So MBZ said ‘fine, you take the limelight’. And he is in the background. And I think that he has played MBS very very effectively. I think he encourages him on these grandiose projects. MBS is a sucker for these huge projects.”

Prog Kreig, of King’s College, said he had spoken to senior Saudis who “say that they have been set up by the Emiratis because the Saudis get the majority of the criticism in the Western world, for the most part rightly so, while the Emirates have created this immaculate reputation, despite the fact they are involved in war in Lebanon, Libya and human rights abuses within Dubai with British citizens.”

Law says the Premier League is now in a “difficult bind”. “With the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, this guy has a very damaged reputation, and that’s not going to go away,” he added.


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