Sheffield United report explosion of interest from India following their owner's latest purchase
Sheffield United and Beerschot, their sister club from Belgium, collected more social media followers than any other teams in Europe last month Abdullah Alghamdi has told The Star; a development he attributes to their umbrella organisation’s expansion into Indian football.
Alghamdi, the group CEO of United World, was speaking as he outlined his vision for Kerala United, previously known as Calicut Quartz FC, which recently became the latest addition to the company’s rapidly expanding portfolio.
“On the commercial side, we have already started seeing the benefits of bringing KUFC into our group with an influx of Indian followers to our social media accounts,” he said. “Particularly for Sheffield United, where India is now in the top 10 list of countries where our followers are based.
“This added to the momentum of an already fast growing community for Sheffield United and Beerschot, who were the top two fastest growing clubs in Europe on the social media scene last month.”
United World, which also includes the Dubai based Al Hilal United on its roster, is the brainchild of HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who seized control of Bramall Lane following a High Court battle with former owner and long-standing director Kevin McCabe two years ago.
Although its creation does not mark United’s first foray into overseas sport - McCabe also established relationships with sides from China, Hungary, Australia and to a lesser extent Brazil during his tenure in charge - the Saudi Arabian and his associates believe UW’s model means it is better equipped to plot safe passage through the complex web of bureaucracy and geopolitical interests which proved problematic in the past. Although cultural sensibilities are taken into account, members adhere to similar principles in terms of their technical briefs and internal governance. The overall aim is to help everyone under the UW banner reap the benefits of their collaboration, with the ultimate ambition of furnishing Beerschot and then United with their pick of talent from overseas at a fraction of the costs usually involved.
“On the football side of things the idea is simple,” Alghamdi said. “That is, to feed our top clubs with a consistent supply of talented players without having to pay an arm and a leg for it, We can attract them from a young age, from wherever they are in the world, through clubs and academies on the ground, and groom them within the network of clubs. The best of the best would work their way up the pyramid, where Sheffield United and Beerschot sit at the top for the moment.”
“In practice, this is a long term vision,” he added. “While we might not see a player from India or the UAE making it to the Premier League soon, this is still the idea.”
Although some are sceptical about the project’s chances of success, arguing its fortunes will effectively be decided by United’s own performances on the pitch, others note Manchester City’s decision to build their own global organisation highlights the wisdom of adopting a similar approach.
“The model encourages movement of players to and from clubs within the group,” Alghamdi said. “When the right moment comes, where there is benefit for both clubs and also the player, we will go ahead with such a move.”