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Abu Dhabi royal given green light for Derby County football club takeover

Sheikh Khaled, cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour, is set to acquire English second-division club
Wayne Rooney joined Derby County in January 2020
Former England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney joined Derby County in January, instantly becoming team captain (AFP/File photo)

A senior Abu Dhabi royal is set to buy Derby County football club, after the English Football League (EFL) approved a takeover bid. 

The second-division team will be acquired by Derventio Holdings (UK), which is ultimately controlled by Bin Zayed International, owned by Sheikh Khaled bin Saquer Zayed al-Nayhan. 

Sheikh Khaled is a cousin of Sheikh Mansour, the United Arab Emirates deputy prime minister and Manchester City owner. 

Derby County said on Friday that the club's current owner, Mel Morris, had been in discussions with Derventio since May over a prospective takeover.

"These talks progressed to the point where a deal has, in principle, been agreed between the two parties," it said in a statement. "The club's submission under the Owners and Director's test for Derventio was approved by the EFL board on Thursday."

It said that the parties could now proceed with the transaction, and the deal was "expected to close very soon". 

Gulf royals continue to invest in English football

Fellow UAE royal Sheikh Mansour acquired Manchester City in September 2008 for £150m. Since then, the Premier League club have won four Premier League titles, five League Cups and two FA Cups - spending more than $2bn on buying players in the process. 

If his cousin, Sheikh Khaled, spends even a fraction of that amount, Derby County fans - whose team is currently 23rd out of 24 teams in English football’s second tier - will expect a turnaround in fortunes.

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Sheikh Khaled attempted to buy Liverpool in 2018, in a $2.6bn deal that would have been the most expensive takeover in football history. 

The Emirati royal was also unsuccessful in an attempt to buy Newcastle United last year, reportedly offering $460m. 

Investors from Gulf neighbour Saudi Arabia also failed to buy Newcastle, after a takeover deal led by its sovereign wealth fund - chaired by de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - collapsed earlier this year.

The deal was opposed from the outset by several human rights organisations and advocates, who accused Saudi Arabia of using Newcastle United to "sportswash" its human rights record. 

It was also marred by a damning report from the World Trade Organisation finding prominent Saudis promoted a pirate TV network that illegally streamed Premier League football from regional rival Qatar's beIN Sports.