When most countries were struggling to devise effective responses to the Covid 19 emergency in 2020 and 2021, Saudi Arabia was actively ramping up its business diversification, progressively moving away from its oil and gas-based economy. During the 2020–2021 crisis, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), under the leadership of the Public Investment Fund (with $620 billion under management), has been scooping up international companies battered by Covid. These investments are part of the broader Saudi strategy to ensure that the Kingdom plays a leading role in the future of global business. And just to be clear, this included football and other sports which are key pillars of the Saudi 2030 Vision.
Saudi’s football has been gaining traction over the last two decades, and the Kingdom national team performed well at the November 2022 World Cup hosted by Qatar. As a matter of reference, Saudi Arabia was the only team to defeat the Word Cup Champions Argentina during the 2022 FIFA tournament.
Just in 2021, Saudi Arabia spent $ 2,2 billion dollars on football, acquiring the New Castle football team, upgrading its sports infrastructure, organizing national tournaments with Italy and Spanish leagues, and securing new frothy partnership agreements with European tournament organizers. As of last week, the Kingdom committed an additional 1 billion US dollars until 2030 to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most successful soccer players in the world. The other top player working as an ambassador for Saudi is the Argentina Leonel Messi, the winner of the 2022 World Cup and 7th “Ballon d’Or”. Ronaldo will work for Saudi Arabia, first as a player until 2025 for Al Nassr, a Saudi football team earning $ 214 million per year, and then as an ambassador of the Kingdom to lobby for the 2030 World Cup. Al Nassr is financed by Qiddiya Investment Company, a partner of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which has played a leading role in Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plans.
The official decision on who will host the world cup will be made in 2024, which gives the Kingdom a great head-start since they have been in full football strategy execution mode since 2020. All these sports investments seek to help Saudi build up its sport sector, creating state of the art stadiums…