NFL insider believes Saudi Arabia’s PIF could eventually buy a team

As the PGA Tour partners with LIV Golf, there is now a growing focus on the possibility of the National Football League partnering with Saudi Arabia. While the Saudis owning an NFL team isn’t imminent, it appears to be a possibility for the future.

The Saudi-backed LIV Golf league officially announced its partnership with the PGA Tour on June 6. Amid the fallout from the announcement, there’s now a spotlight on whether or not the Saudis will seek to increase their ties to American sports.

Existing rules regarding team ownership and franchise sales prevent the Saudis from becoming majority owners of an NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB club. However, those rules can change and it leaves the door open for pro football to eventually align itself with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Asked about the possibility of Saudi Arabia getting involved in American football, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated shared that there is a belief that the Saudis could eventually buy an NFL team.

“I hit up a couple team president types, and while I think starting a whole league isn’t happening, I don’t think it’s out of line to consider the idea that they could someday bid on an NFL team, and maybe even buy one.”

Albert Breer on possibility of Saudi Arabia becoming involved with the NFL

Can the Saudi Arabia PIF buy an NFL team?

Part of the thinking behind that belief is the skyrocketing values of teams. A year after the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65 billion in 2020, the Josh Harris-led group bought the Washington Commanders for $6.05 billion.

NFL teams are projecting the salary cap to rise by $18 to $20 million every year with league officials targeting a goal of $25 million in annual revenue. It’s all playing a role in the rising franchise values, with the next sale of a team likely to cost $5-plus million regardless of what team is put up for bid.

However, existing NFL rules would prevent Saudi Arabia from purchasing a team in the near future. There are strong limitations on who can own a team, including specific guidelines that prevent public companies, sovereign wealth funds and private equity groups from purchasing a stake.

Until that rule changes, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia can’t submit a bid for a club. There were reports that the Saudi’s PIF was funding the bid submitted by Brian Davis for the Commanders. However, that offer was never taken seriously by the NFL.

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League officials will eventually have to alter rules regarding ownership stakes and who can bid on teams. Currently, the NFL requires the incoming general partner to buy at least a 30 percent stake in the team and any bid must be at least 30 percent liquid, or cash.

As the sales of the Commanders and Broncos demonstrate, very few people in the United States are capable of getting into that bidding war and meeting the league’s standards. If the policies change though, Saudi Arabia could offer more than anyone and that would prove enticing to the NFL’s bottom line.

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