Why Saudi Arabia is wagering huge on soccer

Why Saudi Arabia is betting big on soccer

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Soccer in Saudi Arabia has actually gotten in a brand-new period– the period of having worldwide super stars use Saudi grass.

The 31- year-old Brazilian soccer star Neymar simply ended up being the most recent addition to the now star-studded Pro League, which likewise consists of five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are among the most popular players in the world,” stated Fahad Nazer, representative for the Saudi Embassy in the U.S., in an interview with CNBC. “This is what we’re doing by bringing household names like that to the Saudi league. We are elevating the level of play.”

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, is the monetary lorry driving these pricey deals. Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairs the PIF board.

In June, the PIF took control of the nation’s 4 significant domestic clubs: Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli

“Saudi Pro League is the top men’s professional soccer league in Saudi Arabia.” stated Stefan Szymanski, teacher of sport management at the University ofMichigan “So, like most countries, they have a national league that is popular, and people follow. And what’s happening here is that the government, through the investment fund, is channeling money into the clubs so that they can acquire players.”

Saudi Arabia’s love for soccer is not restricted to the domestic league. In 2021, the PIF purchased a bulk stake in the English soccer club NewcastleUnited Critics argue that Saudi Arabia is utilizing sports to sidetrack from human rights abuses in the nation, a term referred to as “sportswashing.” The Saudi federal government is well-known for its crackdown on dissent and severe penalties for wrongdoers, consisting of executions.

“Sportswashing is essentially synonymous with trying to cleanse image and reputation,” stated Simon Chadwick, teacher of sport and geopolitical economy at the Skema BusinessSchool “And clearly, Saudi Arabia is a country that, over recent decades, has had a particular reputation. Often not a good one. In some cases, very negative.”

In reaction to criticisms of sportswashing, Fahad Nazer, representative for the Saudi Embassy in the U.S., informed CNBC: “Every single measure that is taking place in Saudi Arabia, every reform measure, every initiative, and every program that is currently being implemented in Saudi Arabia is being implemented for one of two major reasons. It is either being implemented to advance the interests of Saudi Arabia as a country or to improve the lives of Saudi people, or both. So every other consideration is a distant second.”

Watch the video above to discover why Saudi Arabia is doubling down its financial investment in expert soccer and more.

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