Sports in Saudi an economic diversification playbook   

Crown Prince wants domestic league to be one of ten strongest globally
Sports in Saudi an economic diversification playbook   
Saudi sports stadium

The sports sector in Saudi has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years, especially as it has become one of the important areas of investment that the Kingdom focuses on, and keen to provide strong financial and moral support for.

The sports sector is one of the pillars of Vision 2030 to diversify the economy and raise the level of well-being, which prompted the government to establish an independent sports ministry to replace the “General Sports Authority”, and work to expand the base of sports practitioners, for the sake of a healthy society, and strengthening the sector

The International Monetary Fund predicted on Wednesday that the momentum of the non-oil sector in Saudi Arabia will remain strong this year, recording a 5 percent growth on average.

Saudis are showing great interest in sporting events, especially since the percentage of Saudi youth in the age group under 35 is on the rise, constituting 71 in the Kingdom of the total population.

Hence, the Kingdom has been promoting popular sports, such as football, golf, and cricket. It has hosted many sporting events and is looking forward to hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026, potentially the FIFA World Cup in 2030, and the Asian Winter Games in 2029.

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Hence the importance of the “investment and privatization” project for sports clubs in the Kingdom, launched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Monday, which also comes within the “Vision 2030”, aiming to make the local soccer league one of the ten strongest in the world and raising its marketing value to 8 billion Saudi riyals (about $ 2 billion).

The “Investment and Privatization” project is based on 3 main objectives:

Creating qualitative opportunities and an attractive environment for investment in the sports sector to achieve a sustainable sports economy, raise the level of professionalism, administrative and financial governance in sports clubs, and raise the level of clubs and develop their infrastructure.

Transferring and allocating clubs, in general, to achieve qualitative leaps in various sports in the Kingdom by 2030 to create a distinguished generation of regional and global sports and develop the game of football and its competitions to bring the Saudi league up the list of the top 10 leagues in the world.

Increasing the revenues of the Saudi Professional League from 450 million riyals to more than 1.8 billion riyals annually, in addition to raising the market value of the Saudi Professional League from 3 billion riyals to more than 8 billion riyals.

As part of the investment and privatization project launched by the Crown Prince, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal announced on the same day the transfer of ownership of the clubs “Al-Ittihad”, “Al-Ahli”, “Al-Nasr” and “Al-Hilal” to the Public Investment Fund and converted them into companies.

The Deputy Governor of the Public Investment Fund and Head of the General Department of Investments in the Middle East and North Africa, Yazid Al-Humaid, said that the sports sector is one of the strategic sectors on which the Fund’s strategy focused, as the Fund invested in international clubs and championships such as Newcastle United Club, LIV Golf Championship and electric boating.

He stated that the fund is working to establish sports and entertainment infrastructure, as is happening in the Qiddiya project and the Saudi Entertainment Projects Company. The fund has also invested in the development of the e-sports sector through the Safi Gaming Group. This is in addition to sponsoring many international championships and sports in the field of football, golf, motor racing (Formula 1), electric cars, and others, directly or through the Fund’s companies.

These major changes will facilitate the flow of foreign investment into Saudi football, to help the kingdom achieve its goals of raising its international profile in this area and diversifying its economy away from oil.

It will also help achieve the Kingdom’s goals by signing international players, as what happened with Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, who was succeeded by the Saudi team “Al-Nasr” last January, and the Frenchman of Algerian origin, Karim Benzema, who is the latest football star to move to Saudi Arabia after signing with “Al-Ittihad” club on Tuesday.

And it doesn’t stop there. The investments made by the Saudi government in the sports sector are creating a number of new opportunities for companies and startups in the industry, thus creating more jobs.

Sports tech companies are developing new products and services that can help athletes, coaches, and fans improve their performance, experience, and enjoyment of the sport.

In conclusion, it is true that the sports industry in Saudi Arabia is still in its early stages, but it has a bright future. Government support for sports, a growing youth population, and the increasing popularity of sports in the country are all factors that create a favorable environment for the growth of the sector.

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