The past years have seen Egyptian businesspersons buying European sports clubs to invest in sports and provide opportunities for Egyptian athletes going international.
Kamel Abu Ali was one of the first Egyptians to enter the world of investment with a European clubs with the Swiss club Neuchâtel, in which he was a volunteer in 1981 at the resources development committee. His relationship with the club continued until he bought a share in it and became its vice-president and in charge of football there.
He opened the door for Egyptian footballers to go abroad and play with the Swiss team, taking in Tarek Soliman from Al-Masry SC in 1989, Hany Ramzy from Al Ahly in 1990, and Hossam and Ibrahim Hassan in 1991 from the Greek PAOK.
Following the same footsteps, Sayed Metwally bought the Tirana Club in Albania in 1998. He managed to win the league championship and the European Champions League. After returning to chair Al-Masry SC, he gave the chance for several players to play abroad, including Ayman Mashaly, Mohamed El Shafei, and Walid El Sayed.
In 1997, the famous billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, previous owner of the Harrods department store, entered the sports business paying EGP 30m to buy the British Fulham FC. The club made several achievements, including qualifying for the European League after finishing seventh in the Premier League and losing the title of the European League at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the final in 2009.
Despite what he did for the club, arrows of criticism still hit him. The most prominent situation was to resort to cutting expenses. He bought 12 chicken to save the costs of eggs for players. He also allocated a space in Motspur Park to raise the chicken, to save £5,000 from the annual budget spent on 90 eggs per week for the players. To the criticism, he responded, “Go to Hell” which caused a strained relationship with the fans.
With Fayed aging, in July 2013, he sold the club to US businessperson Shahid Khan in a deal worth £150m.
In 2007, Wadi Degla Investment Company, headed by Maged Samy, bought the Belgian Lierse SK and brought several Egyptian players, such as Ahmed Samir, Mohamed Abdel Wahid, Ahmed Abou Islam, Mohamed El Gabbas, Karim Hafez, and Hany Ramzy as manager.
The situation did not go with Samy as he had planned, faced with violent crises in Belgium, upset fans who placed phrases on the club’s slogan highlighting Samy’s Arab roots, made the head of Wadi Degla turn to Greece and buying Ergotelis FC at the end of July 2017. Then in April this year, he announced the sale of Lierse SK after 11 years. The details of the transactions were not disclosed.
Among the Egyptians who invested in Europe, the name of Assem Allam, founder of Allam Marine, came to light, with the purchase of Hull City in October 2010 for £1 from Russell Bartlett. He paid the debts of the club and brought in the Egyptian Mohamed Nagy Gedo and Ahmed Fathy from Al Ahly, as well as Ahmed Mohammedi. The team returned to the English Premier League.
Allam clashed with the fans when he wanted to change the name to Hull Tigers. The manager Steve Bruce left, which stirred public campaigns calling for Allam to leave. In October 2016, he sold the club to Chinese investors for £130m.
The Sawiris Family also had their share in European sports investments. Samih Sawiris, the owner of El Gouna Club, bought a 12% stake in the Swiss FC Luzern. He played a role in Mahmoud Abdel Moneim’s Kahraba professional experience in 2014.
Finally, Nassif Sawiris bought 55% of Aston Villa on 20 July, after partnering with the US businessperson Wesley Adenis.