Mike Tindall calls for Saudi investment in rugby

Newcastle Falcons players walk off the pitch
Saudi's PIF has held discussions with Newcastle Falcons - Getty Images/Dan Mullan

Mike Tindall, the former England captain, has backed potential investment into rugby from Saudi Arabia, emphasising that the efforts of the players on the field are currently not being backed up by the finances off it.

Tindall, speaking on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast, noted that other sports have pressed on with investment from Saudi Arabia despite criticism of the country’s human rights record by Amnesty International.

Telegraph Sport reported back in January that four Gallagher Premiership clubs were in discussions regarding investment from the Saudi sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Asked about any potential investment, Tindall said: “It’s a hot potato, but I would say yes. We seem to be a sport which never gets rewarded for our loyalty and our values. I also think [the Amnesty International report] is one side of the coin. If you went and spoke to UAE people looking at the west, they would have their view on how we run our countries; our country is not perfectly run at the moment, there are loads of issues around that.

“If you put it back to a sporting context, I don’t think it is really relevant. Every other sport is taking money from Saudi Arabia. Aramco have been putting money into numerous sports for years and years. Now every other sport is going in. I don’t think a sport [rugby] that could genuinely transform itself... what the players put in, the hard work on the field, is just not backed up by the finances off the field. If there is a way of doing that better, and other sports have proven it can be done and managed and people can get past it, then I don’t see why rugby should have an issue with it.”

Tindall was joined on the episode by Mark Foster, the former Gloucester and Exeter wing who now works as the Senior Vice President of Finance for LIV Golf.

Foster revealed that sport agencies have approached LIV to ask how adding a major investor could change the sport, from the extreme “nuclear” option of starting over with a global clubs league, or by introducing an IPL-style competition to sit above the current club game.

Tindall and Foster hypothesised buying the best 300 players and spreading them across eight to 10 teams during a three-month window, creating a competition which moves between major rugby cities across the world as well as expanding into the United States and UAE, each hosting a weekend which is “f------ bonkers”, as Tindall put it, with revenue from the competition filtering back into unions and clubs.

Foster added: “For me is where sport is going – tailgating on a Friday night, you can do junior and women’s games and concerts, then on Saturday you have double and triple headers with global DJs afterwards. You turn it from people being there for five hours on site to 8am to midnight.”