If speculation in the trade press is true, A-League club Melbourne Victory’s hardcore fans and the controversial de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, could soon have more in common than a propensity to, let’s say, step across the line of acceptable behaviour.
In 2021, the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund took control of English Premier League mediocrities Newcastle United, in a bid to usurp Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as the Middle East’s foremost sportswashing petrostate.
There are rumours Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman wants to buy Melbourne Victory.Credit:John Shakespeare
Now bloated with Saudi money, Newcastle United wants to compete with UAE-backed Manchester City – whose City Football Group own Victory’s crosstown rival, Melbourne City – by establishing a global network of clubs.
And, according to chatter in New York Times-owned sports publication The Athletic, the Geordies have their eyes on a group of clubs owned by Miami-based private equiteers 777 Partners, which bought a stake in Victory last year and have recently gained shareholder approval to take control within five years.
The interests of 777 in Australia are broader than football – the fund also backs recently-launched “bogan” airline Bonza, known for its garish purple branding and budgie smugglers for in-flight purchase.
And while a deal between 777 and Newcastle would only put the football clubs in the PIF’s control, Bazza the plane and Bonza’s monetised Australiana would then only be just a few degrees of separation from the human rights-challenged bin Salman.
DARE TO DECLARE
We’ll stay in the Middle East for a moment, and with regimes who throw petrodollars at the beautiful game to try to varnish the ugly truth about themselves.
We brought word last month of Sports Minister Anika Wells and her opposition counterpart, Anne Ruston, enjoying some ritzy hospitality – they actually stayed at the Ritz-Carlton – courtesy of the Qatari government while the politicians were in Doha in November to watch the Socceroos get thrashed by France at the World Cup.
Wells had declared the Qatari largesse to parliamentary authorities well outside the mandated 28 days – citing an administrative error – when we published our item in late February, and Ruston hadn’t declared at all, as we’d heard there was a little confusion about who had paid for what.
We’re happy to report that the Liberal senator from South Australia has updated her register of interests, declaring the trip and noting it was the Australian government that paid for the flights and the regime of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani which had picked up the hotel tab.
So that’s that, except for the small matter of the gift being declared more than three months after the fact.
So we asked the senator’s office for an official comment, but did not get one before deadline.
GRAND THEFT AUTO
Thursday morning commuters in Toorak happened across a strange sight on Grange Road, as police were going all CSI over a beautiful vintage racing car, a Brabham BT21, no less, named after Australia’s Formula 1 legend, Sir Jack Brabham.
The rare car – there were only about 110 ever made – was discovered by the cops, abandoned, in the early hours and had been reported stolen from a house a few streets away.
We won’t mention who owns the vehicle because we haven’t been able to contact them – and they’re not famous anyway – but we have been able to confirm that they were lucky to get their car back.
It was scheduled to line up with hundreds of other rare vintage beauties later on Thursday for a practice session for the Phillip Island Festival of Motorsport. No doubt there was much to talk about among the enthusiasts at the event.
Meanwhile, nobody has been arrested, so you all know the score: Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 please, if you saw something dodgy in Toorak.
A big day on Thursday in the endless saga of Australian Navy submarines began with some confusion at the Australian Industry Group (AIG)’s North Sydney home base.
The business lobbyists were like “wait, what?” when their media monitors Isentia alerted them to ABC reporting of AIG frontman Innes Willox calling for maximum value for home-grown industry from something called the Orca’s submarine program.
Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox.Credit:Jeremy Piper
Great name for a submarine, was the initial reaction, and a big improvement on the God-awful AUKUS acronym.
But a quick Google proved that someone had got there first, with US weapons leviathan Boeing already working on a scary-sounding 50-tonne underwater drone called the Orca.
And the thing will be a killer, armed with torpedoes and protected by a range of high-tech sensors and stealth technology. It will be able to dive to 3700 metres and sail for up to 70 days – with a range of 11,000 kilometres – all on its own.
Why not just buy a few of those, CBD wondered, and all our submarine problems would be solved.
But no dice. Our pals at AIG point out that Australia already has a drone submarine fleet – a different model from the Orca – in the pipeline.
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