Saudi Sports Sector Beckons Investors

by shariff mohammed | May 03, 2017

By Shamsul Huda

Investment potential in the Saudi Arabia’s sports sector is gaining momentum. This fresh boost for the sports investment potentials came when the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) in a recent meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense in the chair directed the General Presidency for Youth Welfare to establish a Sports Development Fund and discussed the issues of privatization of sports clubs that are participating in professional league tournaments. This new drive has paved the way for private sector to invest in the sports sector which will support sports clubs as well as give further boost in sports activities in the wake of Kingdom’s plan to build more sports stadiums and facilities for renewed sports activities.

The CEDA meeting discussed a number of economic and development issues, including the restructuring, promotion and development of the sports sector in the Kingdom in a way of boosting competitiveness of sport at various levels. On the other hand, the new Sports Fund will be created with the objectives of facilitating provision of loans and facilities for sports clubs, promotion of various sports events, contribution to privatize sports clubs, and setting up and financing multi-purpose sports incubators under an institutional umbrella that will also generate an estimated 40,000 jobs for Saudis.

Generally, the General Presidency of Youth Welfare has been responsible for the fast and smooth development of sports within the Kingdom. As part of its program to provide the young people of the Kingdom with facilities for all sporting activities, the Presidency has built 12 integrated sports "cities" in different districts of the Kingdom. Three more cities are under construction. In addition to investment opportunities for the private sector in the Saudi sports sector, there are increasing trade and business opportunities in the Saudi retail sports sector.  A newly released economic report revealed that the value of Saudi sports products retail market is estimated at SR30 billion ($8 billion approx.) with an annual growth of 8%. The report published on the occasion of the recently held Saudi International Sport & Fitness Exhibition & Fitness, (ISF Saudi), organized by Reed Sunaidi Exhibitions also estimated that investments in the Saudi sports market topped Middle East markets.

With the growth of sports and entertainment infrastructure along with the boom in hospitality industry in the Kingdom; public and private investments in sports industry recorded an annual increase of 40%, according to the report. These investments involved in the privatization of sports clubs. In addition, the emergence of women sport activities required establishing dedicated sports facilities exclusively for women that also required private investments.

The report said that the Saudi sport & fitness sector is currently valued at $20 billion suggesting that with the growing population this value is set to go up significantly.

Besides facilities for other sports events, Saudi Arabia currently has over 25 high standard stadiums exclusively for football.  They are mainly: King Fahd International Stadium (Riyadh), King Abdullah Sports City Stadium (Jeddah),  King Abdul Aziz Stadium (Makkah), Prince Abdullah Bin Jalawi Stadium (Al Ahsa), Prince Mohamed Bin Fahd Stadium (Dammam), King Abdullah Sport City Stadium (Buraidah), Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium (Jeddah), Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium (Riyadh), Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musa'ed Stadium (Hail),Prince Saud Bin Jalawi Stadium (Khobar), Prince Sultan Bin Fahd Stadium (Jeddah), Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Aziz Stadium (Medinah), Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Stadium (Abha), King Fahd Stadium (Taif), Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz Sports City Stadium (Qatif), Department of Education Stadium (Unaizah), Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Sport City Stadium (Al Majmaah), Al-Shoalah Club Stadium (Al Kharj), Department of Education Stadium (Hafar Al-Batin), Al-Najma Club Stadium, Al Hazm Club Stadium (Ar Rass), Al-Taqdom Club Stadium (Muznib), Department of Education Stadium (Bisha), Al Akhdoud Club Stadium (Najran) and Al-Amal Club Stadium (Al Bukharia).

Saudi government has planned to build more sports facilities including stadiums throughout the country in order to develop country’s sports and games. A few years ago, Saudi Aramco initiated to construct at least 11 new state-of-the-art stadiums, although they were delayed. These stadiums were supposed to be completed by 2017.

Saudis are very much fond of football and their national football team is considered one of Asia's most successful teams. Saudi Arabia has won the Asian Cup three times (1984, 1988, and 1996) and qualified for the World Cup four consecutive times ever since debuting at the 1994 tournament. In the 1994 World Cup, Saudi Arabia upset seeded Belgium and beat Morocco in the group stage before falling to Sweden in the Round of 16. Saudi Arabia was dismissed in the first round of the next three Cup tournaments.

In 1984, the Saudi soccer team made its first appearance in the Olympic soccer tournament in Los Angeles. In 1989, the Kingdom hosted the fifth World Youth Soccer Cup Championship. The IFA awarded Saudi Arabia a special commendation for its organizational competence and the Saudi soccer team crowned the event by winning the competition.

To hone the skills of its footballers, Saudi Arabia is continuously looking for cooperation with other countries. Accordingly, a representative of the renowned Turkish football club, Galatasaray Sports Club, Mr. H. Ural Akuzum, visited the Eastern Province and met with Asharqia Chamber’s Chairman Mr. Abdulrahman S. Al Otaishan. They discussed ways and means to initiate cooperation to train Saudi budding footballers.

In addition to football, Saudi Arabia is an active member of the Olympic movement. The Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, established in 1964 included more than 14 federations for the sports. In 1984, Saudi Arabia competed in the Olympic Games for the first time in football and rifle-shooting. The efforts of the Saudi athletes culminated in the success of the Saudi National Football Team in 1984 when the team won the Asian Football Cup. The Kingdom's commitment to sport has ensured not only the provision of a wide range of sporting facilities for the population as a whole but also improvements in performance in a number of sports - to the point where the Kingdom's athletes can compete with distinction at the highest international level. In recent years, Saudi athletes have distinguished themselves in many sports including athletics, cycling, handball, table-tennis, soccer and volleyball.

Saudi Arabia has a long history for its sports and nevertheless, it has to go a long way to emerge as a key player in the global sports arena. According to a study by a Saudi scholar, Mr Abdullah Fatta, the Kingdom started developing its sports nearly 6 decades ago. In 1974, sports in Saudi Arabia began to be administered through the government by an independent organization known as the General Presidency for Youth Welfare. Since that time, Saudi Arabia participated in all international sporting events possible, including the Olympic Games, the Asian Games, and the Arab Pan Games. However, their achievement in those events has been below expectations.

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