Saudi Arabia puts billions into sports

Premier League team Newcastle United which was purchased by Saudi Arabia in October 2021 for 305 million
Premier League team Newcastle United which was purchased by Saudi Arabia in October 2021 for 305 million
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In the past few years, Saudi Arabia has spent $6.3 billion on sports investments such as buying premier league team Newcastle United, four Saudi professional league teams such as al-Ittihad and Al Nassr and a $1 billion partnership with the PGA Tour.

These purchases started in 2018 when the Saudi Sports Ministry signed a ten-year deal worth $100 million to host two World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) events. All of these purchases are a part of their Vision 2030 plan which hopes to see the country diversify its economy from oil as it’s the 2nd biggest oil producer in the world, behind the United States. Saudi Arabia is also starting a sports facilities program which includes increasing the capacity of their biggest stadiums and making a new more sustainable New Riyadh Stadium, north of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, which will hold 45,000 seats. 

Saudi Arabia has also used their sports teams to purchase some of the best soccer players in the world. These transactions consist of players such as Al Nassr signing Christiano Ronaldo, Al Hilal signing PSG winger Neymar Da Silva Santos Jr and the two Al Ittihad signings of Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema and Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante

The reasoning behind the facilities program is that the country has plans to host the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. King of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud has also said that he wants to bring sports to the country to increase the amount of jobs and improve the quality of life for his citizens. But observers say otherwise as it is reported that these investments are a form of sportswashing. Sportswashing is when a corporation, government, or individuals use sports to improve their reputation for wrongdoing. One main example of this was in the 1936 summer games which were held in Berlin, Nazi Germany. Germany also used this as an opportunity to spread the propaganda of a new united Germany with a strong military while hiding their discrimination towards Jewish people and Romani people. 

Saudi Arabia sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal told the BBC that the real reason for the investments is to inspire the youth to take up physical activity, boost tourism, create jobs and open the country up to the international community. But another reason for this is to compete with their neighboring countries in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain who have established themselves as sporting hubs by hosting formula 1 races and World Cups. But some groups are saying that the country is using this to ward off attention from questions about their sustainability. Saudi Arabia is planning to have net zero emissions by 2060 and they are developing an eco city named Neom. 

It looks like another country is going to be a powerhouse in the sports world with Saudi Arabia with all of these purchases and the country hosting the 2034 world cup. Maybe in the next olympic games Saudi Arabia will try to go for gold and establish themselves as a sports country like the US, Germany and China.

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