The sports industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers great investment opportunities. The wise government, led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz; And his trustworthy Crown Prince aims to encourage wide and regular participation in sports activities, especially football. This step aims to diversify the economy and enhance the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product.
Since his appointment as Crown Prince in 2017, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman made sports a priority, as part of his development plan and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. Since then, the sports sector in the Kingdom has undergone a comprehensive reform process, driven by three main goals: Achieving a participation rate of 40% by 2030; By inspiring the community to participate in sports, developing the performance of elite Saudi athletes in international competitions, and enabling the sports economy.
To achieve these goals, the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques issued a decision to allocate $1.8 billion in investments in the sports industry over the next five years. The industry has also received significant financial support to allow for a sustainable framework to help community sports thrive. Under a strategy announced in 2019, more than 170 Saudi clubs will benefit from direct financial support in addition to performance-based support worth $650 million.
Investing in football
In an important step towards achieving the vision of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) issued, earlier last year, a decision to allocate more than $2 billion for new long-term football sponsorship deals. This step shows the Kingdoms’ growing ambitions in the most popular sport around the world.
In order to enhance development opportunities, the Public Investment Fund has concluded sponsorship agreements with several football clubs amounting to SAR 8.75 billion. That is equivalent to approximately $2.3 billion. The deals underscore how the Crown Prince is utilizing the Public Investment Fund, which has assets of more than $600 billion, to diversify the country’s economy.
And since football is the most popular sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the wise government seeks to make the Saudi League one of the most important football leagues in the world. Towards achieving this goal, the government entered into several partnerships to help develop sponsorship programs; To offer world-class opportunities to local and international companies.
Agreements that enhance development opportunities
In line with the same strategy, Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) signed two historic agreements this year with Al-Nassr FC and Al-Hilal Saudi Football Club (SFC). The value of the agreement is estimated at about SAR 100 million; That is equivalent to $26 million annually for each club, and it will continue until 2042, with the possibility of reviewing it every five years.
In the context of the agreement, a Member of the Board of Directors and CEO of Qiddiya Investment Company Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Dawood explained that the partnership is an essential part of a strategic vision to develop the sports industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He indicated that these deals are the largest in the Middle East, which include many advantages for both clubs.
On the other hand, the Jeddah Central Development Company, which was established by the Public Investment Fund at the beginning of the second quarter of 2019, concluded two strategic cooperation agreements with Al-Ittihad Club and Al-Ahly Club. The agreements will run for the same period and with the same financial privileges enjoyed by Qiddiya Investment. In the midst of this, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahly club officials expressed their pride in signing these agreements.
Acquisition of Newcastle United FC
On a global level, the PIF’s most famous football investment to date was the acquisition of 100% of English club Newcastle United, at an estimated value of £340 million. The owners have spent more than £200 million on new players, as well as hiring a new manager and chief executive for the Premier League.
In addition, the fund-supported e-commerce platform Noon has become the club’s new partner. Recently, there have been talks of the Kingdom’s intention to host the 2030 World Cup, which leads to a possible joint bid with Egypt and Greece.
Saudi excellence in the Qatar World Cup 2022
Over the past two years, the wise government has continued its efforts to develop the most popular game in the Kingdom, football, and to provide the necessary support to all Saudi League clubs. This aims to make a quantum leap at the technical level, which is reflected positively in Saudi football in general, including the Saudi Arabia national football team, the green falcons.
At the level of the Arab teams, particularly the Asian ones, the Saudi national team is considered one of the most successful national teams in Asia. The green falcons won the Asian Cup three times during the years 1984, 1988, and 1996, and reached a record six times for the Asian Cup finals and six times in the World Cup since then, and they qualified for the first time in 1994.
And thanks to the development plans that receive great and special attention from His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Crown Prince and Prime Minister, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia entered history on November 22 after achieving a landslide victory over Argentina, 2-1, in the Qatar World Cup 2022. To celebrate the victory, the government declared the following day a public holiday; to allow the Kingdom to celebrate the team’s efforts.
A historic deal that supports the strength of the Saudi League
Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has moved to the Saudi Football League, in a move that highlights the ambition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the sports sector.
Ronaldo, 37, joined Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr Club, which is based in Riyadh, on a two-and-a-half-year deal valued at $75 million annually. And that’s just weeks after ending his second season with Manchester United in the English Premier League.
In the midst of the most expensive deal in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed that he was keen to try a new football league in a different country. Where he said: “I’m so proud to make this big decision in my life. In Europe, my work is done. I won everything. I played for the most important clubs in Europe. For me now it’s a new challenge to share my experience in Asia, especially the Saudi League.”
And Ronaldo’s move may help position Saudi Arabia as an important competitor in this game. Commenting on the deal, sports analysts said that this signing will not only inspire the Saudi club Al-Nassr to achieve more success, but will also inspire the Saudi League and future generations.
For his part, the Portuguese international player, Cristiano Ronaldo, expressed his satisfaction at signing for Al-Nassr Club, appreciating the welcome he and his family found upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia. Stressing “I can say now that many opportunities in Europe, many clubs in Brazil, in Australia, US and even in Portugal many clubs tried to sign me but I gave my word to this club.” He added that he is looking forward to contributing to the development of Saudi football.
For his part, French coach Rudi Garcia, coach of Al-Nassr Club, expressed his happiness with training Cristiano Ronaldo. He stressed that he will contribute with his fellow players to provide a more than wonderful performance, based on the experience that the player possesses.
In turn, Al-Nassr Club President Musalli Al-Muammar welcomed the best player in the world. He indicated that Ronaldo’s numbers, achievements and capabilities give him the right to receive the highest salary for a football player. Al-Muammar stressed at the same time that the player stipulated, before signing the contract, the same treatment that applies to the rest of his fellow players.
Ronaldo’s unveiling ceremony witnessed several segments; The most prominent of which was taking souvenir photos with the club’s players, and a speech he addressed to the Al-Nasr fans, in which he expressed his happiness at wearing the first team shirt. He pledged to strive to provide with his fellow players the levels that the team’s fans await, and to strive to achieve achievements worthy of the name of victory.
Ronaldo is not the only legend in the Saudi League
Ronaldo’s accession is not the only deal that attracted global interest in the history of the Saudi League, as it is a deal that culminates in a group of deals that opened horizons for football legends to join the Saudi League.
In 1998, Al-Nassr Club attracted the international player Hristo Stoichkov, but he participated in only two matches, during which he scored one goal, to crown him the Asian Cup Winners.
Denilson de Oliveira
Denilson had a professional experience in the Saudi League with Al-Nassr club also in the 2006-2007 season, where he played 15 matches with Al-Alamy, during which he scored 3 goals.
After winning the 1994 World Cup, the 1989 Copa America, and the 1997 Confederations Cup with the Brazilian national team, Bebeto joined the ranks of the Saudi Federation in 2002, and was satisfied with participating in only 5 matches, during which he scored one goal.
Sebastian Giovinco joined the Saudi League in January 2019 and has performed well with Al-Hilal.
Rivelino moved to Al-Hilal club in one of the most important deals at the time from 1979 to 1982, where he played 57 matches and scored 23 goals, then retired after that.
Lee Young Pyo
South Korean star Lee Young-pyo played with Al Hilal Club from 2009 to 2011, knowing that he participated with his country in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
Wilhelmsson represented Al-Hilal from 2008 to 2012, after playing in many European and American clubs.
The impact of the global deal
After the official announcement that Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo had joined the ranks of the Saudi club Al-Nassr, fans in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flocked to the stores specialized in selling football equipment in the Riyadh region to buy the club’s new shirt for Ronaldo, who won the Golden Ball award five times.
The deal fueled the patriotic fervor that surged after the kingdom defeated Argentina to win the 2022 World Cup. A victory that has been hailed as one of the greatest achievements in the history of the tournament.
Many Saudis took to social media platforms to praise the move. “The dream has come true,” said a post on Instagram written by a shop that prints Ronaldo’s shirts in the colors of the Al-Nassr team. A Saudi tweeter wrote on Twitter, “A picture for history books,” commenting on a picture of Ronaldo holding the Al-Nasr shirt.
The Kingdom is achieving its sporting ambitions
The success of Saudi Arabia in including the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is a step taken by the Gulf kingdom to achieve its sporting ambitions.
Shortly after Ronaldo signed with Al-Nassr, the club’s page on the social networking site Instagram gained more than 10.5 million new followers. The club’s official website was also inaccessible after the bandwidth limit was exceeded due to a sudden spike in viewership.
In this context, sports analysts say that Ronaldo’s joining the ranks of the Saudi victory is part of a broader effort by the Kingdom to diversify its revenue sources and enhance competition opportunities with major European leagues.
This global transfer deal may play a role in supporting the goals of Saudi Vision 2030. The first strategic goal related to sports in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is to increase the number of those practicing sports and physical activities on a regular basis (at least once a week) among Saudis from the age of 15 and over. This is up from 13% to 20% of the population by 2020, and from there to 40% by 2030.