‘I do not hold grudges’, says Sheffield United’s Prince Abdullah

Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah speaks at Thursday's press conference. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah speaks at Thursday's press conference. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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AMID the spoils of victory, Prince Abdullah bin Mosa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Sa’ud professed to a sense of regret.

Sheffield United’s new owner, addressing a media gathering just over three days on from winning his High Court case for sole ownership of the club with former co-owner Kevin McCabe, could easily have adopted a tone of triumphalism after coming out on the winning side following a bitter dispute for full control at S2.

This came after Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that McCabe must sell his 50 per cent Blades stake to his rival for £5million.

A meeting in Paris between the Prince and McCabe had taken place after it was known between both parties that the High Court would rule in favour of the former.

No out-of-court settlement was reached, with McCabe, who registered his “bitter disappointment” at the verdict, admitting that “serious consideration” was being given to an appeal.

Any such appeal cannot be lodged until October 14, with the prospect remaining that this wrangle could yet rumble on.

Prince Abdullah said: “I am not a vindictive man and I do not hold grudges. I think in every relationship, there are good and bad. Bad people, in my opinion, only remember the bad things from disputes. Good people try to be fair or remember the good things.

“I know I won and I know there was some harsh language in the verdict about Kevin.

“We could have saved all this. I wanted to issue a joint statement and find a dignified way. I wanted to treat him with respect. He had given me a (previous) offer, which I could never accept because it was against everything in this judgement.

“I am sure he has his reasons and Kevin is a smart man. I like his family, I like Scott and Simon (McCabe’s sons).”

It remains to be a seen if a line in the sand can yet be drawn in what has proved a bitter disputefor control of the Blades.

The court proceedings saw all manner of revelations come to light – including suggestions that a £3 million loan to the Blades had allegedly come from “the Bin Laden family”.

The court was also told Santander, the club’s bank, had asked for an explanation over a loan that Prince Abdullah insisted came from a company belonging to businessman Saleh Mohammed bin Laden – a relative of former al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Questioned about the link to the Bin Laden family by reports yesterday, Prince Abdullah was unequivocal that the bad publicity was unfair.

He stressed that the family member is a legitimate businessman without close links to the world-renowned terrorist, with McCabe claiming in court that the Prince never knew the original source of the money.

The Prince continued: “I get really offended when people say things like the Bin Laden family is a bad name.

“They are a very respectable family. I have not done business with them in the past, but if I can do business with them, I will be very happy to do business with them.

“The Bin Laden family is not a disgraced name and something I should hide.”

Prince Abdullah will avidly watch his club’s fortunes from afar, having installed his son-in-law Prince Musa’ad bin Khalid bin Musa’ad Al Sa’ud as his day-to-day representative at Bramall Lane.

The businessman has become the Premier League’s youngest chairman at 26 in the process.

Whether it be at his home in Los Angeles or in his native Riyadh, Prince Abdullah insists he won’t miss a second of the Blades’ Premier League adventure on TV.

As for watching games, it revolves around a bizarre ritual of watching games intently on his own – with the volume on mute. And when United lose, he is not one for talking about it after.

Thousands of miles away from Bramall Lane maybe, but his commitment seems not in doubt .

Talk at the press conference also referenced future improvements to Bramall Lane and raising United’s game commercially and bringing in new sponsors from Saudi Arabia.

Talk of step-to-step building, consolidation, ‘sticking together’ and ‘actions speaking louder than words’ were eminently sensible.

By interpretation, the comments also implied that the Prince is planning to be around for the long haul, with the Blades having only just reacquainted themselves with the Premier League, a sporting ‘passion’ for their football-loving owner.

The Prince said: “You become a fan, you love the colours, the team, the players, the songs and the tradition.

“It not all about the money. If it was about the money, the best decision now for me would be to sell the club because I have taken a huge risk.

“If I stay in the club, we (could) get relegated. Actions speak louder than words and if the money was the only motivation, I would have sold right now.

“But I don’t want to sell the club because I love the club and want to make it bigger and better.”