Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund committed more than $2 billion in new long-term football sponsorship deals this year, demonstrating the kingdom’s growing ambitions for the world’s most popular sport.
The Public Investment Fund said in its latest financial report that it had “signed sponsorship deals with several football clubs worth 8.75 billion riyals.” [$2.3bn]” in the first eight months of 2022. Most of the money goes to domestic football.
The deal highlights how the PIF, with over $600 billion in assets under management, is being used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to diversify the country’s economy. Unlike most other wealth funds, PIF has his dual mission of supporting the development of the country while at the same time pursuing financial gains.
Much of the spending surge is due to a series of 20-year commercial partnerships between investee companies Qiddiya and Jeddah Central, as well as several domestic football clubs. He also has a five-year sponsorship deal with the PIF-owned real estate developer Roshn for Saudi football and his league.
An account the PIF shared with investors in a $2 billion bond it raised earlier this week revealed a spike in spending on football.
The accounting also indicates that the Sovereign Wealth Fund has received a qualified opinion from KPMG on its 2021 financial statements. This meant that the audit firm was not satisfied with certain aspects of the accounting. No audit evidence was available,” he warned. PIF declined to comment.
The sharp rise in football spending came a year after the PIF bought Premier League club Newcastle United for just over £300 million. Since the takeover, the new owners have spent over £200m on players and hired a new head coach and CEO.
Noon, a Gulf-based, PIF-backed online retailer, became one of the team’s shirt sponsors in June of this year. The company also has a commercial partnership with Manchester City, owned by members of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
Neighboring Qatar is gearing up to host the World Cup next month as Saudi Arabia pushes football further. Qatar already have a strong presence in European club football. In 2011 Paris he acquired Saint-Germain. The team’s chief executive officer, Nasser El-Khelaifi, is currently president of the European Club Association, his group lobbying his team elite.
Saudi Arabia’s football ambitions will only grow further. In August, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended a boxing match in Jeddah with Gianni Infantino, the secretary-general of FIFA, the governing body of world football. Egypt and Greece are touted as potential partners for the three-continent contenders.
The Saudi-led proposal faces competition from joint bids from Spain, Portugal and Ukraine, as well as a South American proposal that could mark the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup in Uruguay.
Saudi Arabia has also made a name for itself in other sports. PGA Tour rivals his circuit, he has secured at least his $2 billion for LIV Golf and Jeddah won F1’s first Saudi Grand Prix last year as part of his 15-year commitment. held.
The campaign group, Human Rights Watch, has accused the Saudi government of using football, motor racing, and golf for “sportwashing,” which it “has taken seriously by hijacking events celebrating human achievement.” Attempts to distract from human rights violations”. .