Ekstraklasa

Saudi Takeover of Slask Wroclaw in the Works?

Slask Wroclaw has gained serious interest from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund / City of Wroclaw
Saudi Takeover of Slask Wroclaw in the Works?

WROCLAW, Poland. June 9 (PSN) – Slask Wroclaw could see a Saudi Arabian takeover in the near future, similar to the likes of what Premier League side Newcastle United experienced last fall.

According to Piotr Janas of ‘Gazeta Wroclawska’, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) are looking to invest in Wroclaw – in more ways than one.

Surprisingly, football was not the catalyst for this, as many originally had believed to be the case.

What brought the Saudis initially to the Silesian capital was first and foremost the desire to build an electric vehicle factory in Europe. With its close distance to Berlin and the fact that LG produces batteries for electric cars in Kobierzyce – the largest factory of this type in the world – then Wroclaw undoubtedly became a strong candidate for a factory under LEC (Light Electric Car), a newly formed EV brand that is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, PIF.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, is in the midst of an economic diversification drive under its Vision 2030 agenda. A key area of focus is to support the sustainable development goals of all economic sectors, with the country aiming to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 through a circular carbon economy approach. With the nation already a month ago agreeing to build a local factory for the US-listed Lotus Cars brand name (also invested under PIF), the plan now is to also expand EV operations to Europe.

During preliminary examinations of Wroclaw, the discovery of the local football club – Slask Wroclaw – peaked the interest of PIF, who recently had also purchased Newcastle United in England last fall.

Slask, a member of Poland’s top flight – the Ekstraklasa – has a lot to impress for any potential investor, such as: a 45,105 seater modern stadium situated right next to the highway with good access to the airport, an established large fanbase, along with a brand new training facility currently in the construction phase. All of these details and more brought Slask under the Saudi magnifying glass. With the Silesian club also being owned by the city of Wroclaw, it meant that a relatively simple, quick and cheap sale would be possible as compared to than dealing with a private owner.

In addition, after examining the Ekstraklasa itself, PIF as well came to the conclusion that a Saudi-backed Slask would have relatively little trouble to conquer the league and gain consistent access to the UEFA Champions League – something that is not guaranteed with Newcastle in the English Premier League. From that point on, the idea to transform the Silesian club into a “footballing giant” in central Europe and a serious Champions League contender grew amongst the circle of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne.

“Things are moving rapidly. The Saudis have an ambitious plan in mind for Slask, where they can see the Wroclaw team regularly take on the champions of France, England, Germany and so on. It’s a game changer.” told one source close to the negotiation talks told PSN Futbol.

“However, we must cool down for now. At least until the deal is finalized. There is a whole process to this that we have to respect. But if it does go through, I can confidently say that all of Europe will know the name Slask Wroclaw.”

A letter of interest in both building an EV factory and the sale of Slask Wroclaw (referred to as “Wroclaw Soccer Klub”) was sent to the city on February 18 by Mohammad Iskrandani, president of the management board of LEC, on behalf of PIF.

Since then, several talks have been held between LEC and the city of Wroclaw. Talks were initiated by Adam Pietrowsk on behalf of LEC and PIF. Pietrowski, a Polish football agent based in Germany, is best known for his role in helping attempt to close the sale of Wisla Krakow in 2018 to the French-Cambodian businessman, Vanna Ly. Unfortunately, the conditional sale of Wisla was later cancelled due to Ly failing to wire a money transfer by the deal’s deadline.

Due to his knowledge of the Polish market and dealing with foreign investors, Pietrowski was approached to help initiate talks with Slask over its potential sale to LEC and PIF. However, due to the circumstances of the business being conducted, the negotiations held to this point were on a “need to know” basis and safeguarded closely to only a few individuals within the city’s council. This in turn even saw Wroclaw’s mayor Jacek Sutryk and the management of Slask being left in the dark on the proposed deal, with both parties finally becoming privy to it as of late.

This is due to the negotiations process having recently reached its final phase. To celebrate this, the Saudi ambassador to Poland, Saad Saleh Alsaleh, this week arrived in Wroclaw to meet with mayor Sutryk to speak about Saudi business interest in Wroclaw. As expected, this official meeting alerted Slask supporters that there was truth to the Saudi-Slask takeover rumours of which were quickly spreading throughout Poland in the past few weeks.

The last and final process will be a formal meeting between PIF and the city of Wroclaw, alongside Slask’s club management board. This is to take place on June 23-24, where PIF representatives are expected to fly to Wroclaw to examine potential factory build sites and the Slask football club in person, and to see whether a final agreement can be made between both parties. It is then when an official offer of purchase would be laid out.

Despite the strong Saudi willingness to invest in Slask Wroclaw, mayor Sutryk remains cautious about the deal, as well being notably unhappy about being kept in dark about it for the past several months. This is because only a week ago he publicly denied all claims to the rumour of Slask being in anyway connected to a Saudi sale. However, since learning of what has been happening behind the scenes did he need to recently backtrack on his previous statements around it.

“It is not an art to sell Slask and take several millions for it,” Wroclaw mayor Jacek Sutryk told local press.

“The real question here is: what happens next? Will this investor feel this club or will they be guided only by profit? I believe that Slask Wroclaw is much more than just a business project, as some may see it. To me, it is also a social project, so someone who would become its owner should look at it this way and be connected to this city in a certain way.”

“We have seen what happens when a private investor fails and the club gets into trouble. Who do the fans come to then? I am able to bet on the entire budget of Slask Wroclaw, that these fans would first come to me and then say that it is the duty of this office to save the club. So with that said, I much prefer the current model that we have in place, in which I have full control over Slask without interfering in sports matters, there is then full transparency and peace.” emphasized the mayor.

For now, the matter of Slask being sold to PIF is still open and on the table. Two other unrelated offers in the past few weeks had appeared from various investors, also from the Middle and Far East, but mayor Sutryk saw neither as being sufficient enough to proceed with.

Only time will tell if Sutryk’s opinion’s on the LEC-PIF proposal will change and whether this deal may end up being finalized in the near future. What is certain, everything depends on the success on the in-person meeting happening later this month.

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Ekstraklasa
@PatricNova

Pat Nowak is a sports reporter covering Polish football at all levels, from the Ekstraklasa to the National Team. In addition to his work on PSN, Pat has previously written for ESPN.com and CTV Olympics.

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