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October 10, 2009

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UK influx of Saudi owners predicted

AS a Saudi Arabian prince negotiates to buy a stake in Liverpool, the kingdom's top football administrator predicted that 12 English clubs could soon be run by Saudi businessmen.

Ali al-Faraj became the English Premier League's first this week by taking over at Portsmouth, and Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud is set to resume talks with Liverpool co-owner George Gillett Jr next week about buying a minority stake in the club.

"In one year's time, if there was no backfire and everyone is settled, I am sure at least 10 more investors will come," said Hafez al-Medlej, chairman of the Saudi Professional League Commission. "Not necessarily to the Premier League. They might come and buy some clubs at the Championship level.

"Last year I spoke to some people interested in Championship clubs and making inquiries. Their specific needs are they wanted a club where average crowd is high, facilities are good and a club in London. Not always a team top of the league. To buy a club from the First Division and bring it up is an even better investment."

But al-Medlej conceded that he did not know al-Faraj, who rescued Portsmouth from financial problems that existed under the brief tenure of United Arab Emirates investor Sulaiman al-Fahim.

"I hope al-Faraj has success, but we never heard of this guy," al-Medlej said on Thursday at the Leaders In Football summit at Stamford Bridge in London. "I asked my friends and no one knows him. For three days, I see there is no picture of him in the Saudi papers.

"If he comes with the money and leaves the management to those who know about it then that's good."

As a friend of Prince Faisal, al-Medlej is more confident about the role he can play at Liverpool. "They will benefit from the money that he will inject into the club -- it will help them bring world-class players."


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