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Will Egyptian billionaire soccer mogul get San Diego favors?

State of Maryland studies building 10,000-seat stadium for same investor

Mohamed Mansour at North Carolina State: “Football is in our blood."
Mohamed Mansour at North Carolina State: “Football is in our blood."

News that East County's Sycuan gambling tribe and an Egyptian billionaire are on the verge of bankrolling a major league soccer team in San Diego has set off a big round of huzzahs on the Union-Tribune's October 28 front page.

But as usual, many questions about timing and potential costs to taxpayers lurk behind the announcement.

“An MLS franchise anchored in San Diego would be a win-win for the entire San Diego region,” the paper quoted a statement by Sycuan chief administrative officer Adam Day.

As a trustee of the California State University system, Day may face questions of conflict of interest regarding his role in the construction and operation of San Diego State University's Snapdragon Stadium, the likely venue of the future team.

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"The London-based Mansour Group is headed by Mohamed Mansour, an Egyptian with degrees from North Carolina State University and Auburn University who ranks among the wealthiest people in Africa," according to the U-T.

“'Football is in our blood,' Mohamed Mansour, whose uncle was a goalkeeper on Egypt’s 1934 World Cup team, told Forbes last year," the U-T went on to report. "'We as a family believe that sports help nurture people.'”

But a July 8, 2021 Forbes item noted concerns raised by Mansour Group's investment in FC Nordsjaelland, a professional Danish soccer team.

Foreign investors, per the story, "have targeted Danish clubs for a panoply of reasons: good entry prices, low player wages, established youth development, and a liberal mainstream culture. But at what point does foreign investment become a threat to a thriving domestic soccer culture?"

"If it is just to have a toy to play with - something for very rich and wealthy owners - just to do something quick or give excitement in their daily life, it is a problem - or if they feed into a structure where they own more clubs, and they can just put players around in this system," Kasper Hjulmand, head coach of Denmark men’s national football team, told Forbes.

Mansour owns the Danish team through the Right To Dream Group, a soccer conglomerate in which Mansour Group purchased a majority interest for $120 million in January 2021.

Many questions about Mansour's involvement with Sycuan and the putative San Diego soccer venture revolve around potential future costs to the public for so-called stadium enhancements needed to house soccer at the SDSU facility, built for college football.

"SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker has said he would offer flexible financial terms, either as a traditional rental arrangement or an equity partnership where the MLS club would invest in the stadium and have access to more revenue streams from concessions, parking, advertising and ancillary events," says the U-T's story on the prospective deal.

Earlier this year, Right to Dream lobbied the Maryland Stadium Authority to study building a new soccer stadium and a related soccer academy complex in South Baltimore, per published reports.

A post on the Maryland Stadium Authority's website says the study, including “a market and economic analysis," is ongoing .

"The primary tenants will be Right to Dream and would include both men’s and women’s professional teams, as part of an academy-based initiative. The study should also examine stadium ownership, funding, and operating recommendations, including a draft non-binding Letter of Intent with Right to Dream."

"The cost of the study is $62,000 and will be funded equally between Right to Dream, Port Covington, and MSA, with each paying one-third."

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Mohamed Mansour at North Carolina State: “Football is in our blood."
Mohamed Mansour at North Carolina State: “Football is in our blood."

News that East County's Sycuan gambling tribe and an Egyptian billionaire are on the verge of bankrolling a major league soccer team in San Diego has set off a big round of huzzahs on the Union-Tribune's October 28 front page.

But as usual, many questions about timing and potential costs to taxpayers lurk behind the announcement.

“An MLS franchise anchored in San Diego would be a win-win for the entire San Diego region,” the paper quoted a statement by Sycuan chief administrative officer Adam Day.

As a trustee of the California State University system, Day may face questions of conflict of interest regarding his role in the construction and operation of San Diego State University's Snapdragon Stadium, the likely venue of the future team.

Sponsored
Sponsored

"The London-based Mansour Group is headed by Mohamed Mansour, an Egyptian with degrees from North Carolina State University and Auburn University who ranks among the wealthiest people in Africa," according to the U-T.

“'Football is in our blood,' Mohamed Mansour, whose uncle was a goalkeeper on Egypt’s 1934 World Cup team, told Forbes last year," the U-T went on to report. "'We as a family believe that sports help nurture people.'”

But a July 8, 2021 Forbes item noted concerns raised by Mansour Group's investment in FC Nordsjaelland, a professional Danish soccer team.

Foreign investors, per the story, "have targeted Danish clubs for a panoply of reasons: good entry prices, low player wages, established youth development, and a liberal mainstream culture. But at what point does foreign investment become a threat to a thriving domestic soccer culture?"

"If it is just to have a toy to play with - something for very rich and wealthy owners - just to do something quick or give excitement in their daily life, it is a problem - or if they feed into a structure where they own more clubs, and they can just put players around in this system," Kasper Hjulmand, head coach of Denmark men’s national football team, told Forbes.

Mansour owns the Danish team through the Right To Dream Group, a soccer conglomerate in which Mansour Group purchased a majority interest for $120 million in January 2021.

Many questions about Mansour's involvement with Sycuan and the putative San Diego soccer venture revolve around potential future costs to the public for so-called stadium enhancements needed to house soccer at the SDSU facility, built for college football.

"SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker has said he would offer flexible financial terms, either as a traditional rental arrangement or an equity partnership where the MLS club would invest in the stadium and have access to more revenue streams from concessions, parking, advertising and ancillary events," says the U-T's story on the prospective deal.

Earlier this year, Right to Dream lobbied the Maryland Stadium Authority to study building a new soccer stadium and a related soccer academy complex in South Baltimore, per published reports.

A post on the Maryland Stadium Authority's website says the study, including “a market and economic analysis," is ongoing .

"The primary tenants will be Right to Dream and would include both men’s and women’s professional teams, as part of an academy-based initiative. The study should also examine stadium ownership, funding, and operating recommendations, including a draft non-binding Letter of Intent with Right to Dream."

"The cost of the study is $62,000 and will be funded equally between Right to Dream, Port Covington, and MSA, with each paying one-third."

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