Dubai targets football and global sports business

Thirty years after they emerged as a new force in horseracing, the Sunday Times (London) reports, the Middle Eastern oil sheikhs are embarking on an audacious bid to buy their way into the £50 billion global sports business. The Dubai royal family is making in investments in almost every aspect of British sport.

The International Cricket Council, for instance, left its 96-year-old London home last month and moved to new headquarters — in Dubai. When the England football team stopped off in Dubai on their way to the last World Cup in Japan and South Korea, key players were given homes on the new Palm development — reclaimed islands in the shape of a giant palm tree in the Arabian Sea — in return for using their names to market Dubai as a sporting destination.

"Meanwhile, Arsenal fans are looking forward to the opening of the team’s new stadium, Ashburton Grove, which will have the giant red Emirates airline logo on the stands. The Dubai airline, controlled by the country’s royal family, has paid most of the £90 million bill for the new ground, known as the Emirates Stadium.

"Arsenal’s great rivals, Manchester United, are also benefiting from the oil-fuelled sporting spending spree. Officials at Old Trafford recently signed a £25 million licensing deal, which will lead to the first Manchester United Soccer School in the Middle East opening in Dubai in 2009.

“Dubai is breaking new ground by buying into almost every sport in Britain,” said Kevin Roberts, editor of Sport Business International magazine. “What Dubai does not have it simply buys. Money talks and Dubai is shouting,” said Ugi Balasubramaniam, a leading Dubai-based sports official.

See also: Emirates expands sponsorship deals in Europe (1 Sept)