Saudi Arabia changing sporting landscape with multi-billion dollar deals
Saudi Arabia has spent at least $1.5bn on high-profile international sporting events in a bid to bolster its reputation, a report by human rights organisation Grant Liberty has revealed.
The oil-rich nation has invested millions across the sporting world, from chess championships to golf, tennis and $60m alone on the Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse-racing event with prize money of $20m.
The Kingdom is also splurging $650m in a 10-year deal with Formula One, which world championships began last Sunday and for the first time will include a race in the port city of Jeddah.
It has also been awarded the bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
Only last week Saturday a mouth-watering clash involving heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and challenger Francis Ngannou was staged in the desert.
While Tyson Fury went home with more than £50 million, Ngannou, a former Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter whose highest pay was $580,000 for his UFC 260 rematch against Miocic, got a purse of $10 million.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made investing in sport a key part of his Vision 2030 project. He has dismissed suggestions that the Kingdom is sports washing its image in a bid to hide the Kingdom’s poor human rights record.
The Kingdom has spent big to secure involvement in global sporting events, part of efforts to present Saudi Arabia as a newly business-friendly, forward-thinking nation.
This includes $145m in a three-year deal with the Spanish Football Association, and $15m in appearance fees for a single Saudi International men’s golf tournament.
It also includes $33m to host the Saudi Arabian Masters snooker tournament in the Kingdom, and $100m for the boxing match known as “Clash on the Dunes” between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua in 2019.
The Kingdom has also entered pending bids for forthcoming events, including $200m for the Tyson Fury vs Joshua boxing match set to take place later this year, and $180m in sponsorship for Real Madrid through the Qiddiya project, a tourism and entertainment mega project in Riyadh under the umbrella of “Vision 2030”.
“Vision 2030 has set the creation of professional sports and a sports industry as one of its goals.
That will not only potentially provide employment for thousands of Saudis but it will also improve the quality of life for everyone living in the kingdom,” said Fahad Nazer, spokesperson for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, when asked about Grant Liberty’s findings.
He added: “The kingdom is proud to host and support various athletic and sporting events which not only introduce Saudis to new sports and renowned international athletes but also showcase the kingdom’s landmarks and the welcoming nature of its people to the world.”