London: US investor Stephen Pagliuca said Saudi Arabia’s investment in European football has the potential to significantly disrupt the English Premier League - at present the richest in the sport.
“It’s been an extraordinary injection of capital and increased the price of players dramatically,” Pagliuca, a senior adviser at private equity firm Bain Capital, told Bloomberg TV when discussing the recent spending by clubs in the Saudi Pro League.
Saudi Arabia is pumping millions of dollars into building its professional football league as part of a broader plan to invest in sports and boost its tourism industry. The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund in June took control of four of the Saudi Pro League’s biggest clubs and has been adding big-name footballing talent from Europe to their squads.
Established players from Premier League teams including Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC have made the move east, as have those from other top divisions in Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Players are being offered contracts worth three or four times more what they can make in the Premier League, according to Pagliuca. “We’ll see how long it’s sustainable,” he said.
Pagliuca is no stranger to investing in sports. He’s the co-owner of the Boston Celtics basketball team in the US and also holds a stake in Italian football team Atalanta. This week, Atalanta reportedly agreed to sell one of its players - defender Merih Demiral - to Saudi Arabian team Al-Ahli.
Last year, Pagliuca made an unsuccessful bid for west London team Chelsea “- one of the clubs that has been selling players to the Saudi Arabian league this summer.