London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The interviews published by Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday with Saudi businessman and new Portsmouth FC owner Ali al-Faraj, his brother Ahmed al-Faraj, and Portsmouth FC Chief Executive Peter Storrie, along with lawyer Mark Jacob, attracted widespread interest.
Asharq Al-Awsat was surprised on Friday morning to receive a phone call from a British journalist inquiring about the veracity of the interviews published by Asharq Al-Awsat, while Portsmouth FC published a brief statement on its website announcing that the interview was false. Asharq Al-Awsat stands behind the published article and confirms that it is in possession of audio records, as well as photocopies of the documents mentioned in the interview, as well as pictures documenting the visit in which Asharq Al-Awsat met with Ahmed al-Faraj, the brother of the new owner, during a visit to the club accompanied by Portsmouth FC Chief Executive Peter Storrie. In a portion of the audio recording Saudi businessman Ali al-Faraj speaks with our colleague Mohamed Alayed via telephone on loudspeaker whilst he was present in Ahmed’s car following the tour of the club and during which he indicated that he authorized his brother Ahmed al-Faraj to speak. The following is a transcript of a portion of the audio recording which was made with the knowledge of Ahmed al-Faraj and published by Asharq Al-Awsat in its unedited version.
Mohammed Alayed: Very good, Mr. Ali, of course I expect what currently compelled you to favor Asharq Al-Awsat with this interview; this interview given to me was…
Ali al-Faraj: (interrupting) Brother al-Fahim, yes.
Mohammed Alayed: Yes, so this is what caused you to break your silence?
Ali al-Faraj: Yes, of course everything has its limits, and he [Suleiman al-Fahim] said [what he said] with his own tongue, before what happened to us [take-over of Portsmouth FC]. Of course the club has its administration and its board of directors, and its advisors, which means it is not us who makes the decisions. We are new, and until now the decisions are not in our hands, which means not in my hands, and not in Ahmed’s hands.
Mohammed Alayed: Yes, yes, in any case…
Ali al-Faraj: (interrupting) Excuse me, this is perhaps the first time that I have spoken to a journalist.
In another section of the recording, Ali al-Faraj indicates that his brother Ahmed al-Faraj should speak for him, Ahmed al-Faraj replies, “Thank you, Ali” following which Ali al-Faraj responded by saying “Yes Abu Rayan [Father of Rayan], is blessed.
It is worth mentioning that Abu Rayan is a nickname for Ahmed al-Faraj used by his brother. In another section of the recording Ali al-Faraj speaking to our colleague Mohamed Alayed “Brother Mohamed, I am confident that if we have an opportunity in Saudi Arabia to enter [football] clubs, I believe we will not give up [this opportunity], especially in an opportunity similar to this one.
Mohamed Alayed: You can put forward a successful model with the steps you have taken in England which says that Saudi youth can succeed in any field, in the same way that you succeeded in the field of sporting investment Saudi youth can succeed in medicine or engineering.
Ali al-Faraj: Without a doubt, yes, and I hope that things continue in this way, and thank you Mohamed Alayed.
Asharq Al-Awsat which has pride in its credibility retains all the recordings and documents, and confirms that it has received no contact from the club since the publication of the interview, and in fact Mr. Ahmed al-Faraj contacted our colleague Mohamed Alayed following the publication of the article express their happiness with the published interview.