Beyond Oil: Saudi Arabia's $6.7 Billion Sports Investment

From horse racing and soccer to golf, boxing and Formula 1, this kingdom is the epicenter of international sport

by Sededin Dedovic
Beyond Oil: Saudi Arabia's $6.7 Billion Sports Investment
© Pool / Getty Images

In a recent interview with BBC Sport, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Sports, revealed that the kingdom has invested an unprecedented £5 billion (US$6.7 billion) in sports over the past three years.

This staggering figure underscores the nation's ambitious efforts to become a major player in the international sporting arena. The royal family of Saudi Arabia is by far the richest royal family in the world and no one knows the exact amount of wealth they have.

At the head of this sports investment initiative is the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign fund of Saudi Arabia. PIF has made significant inroads in a variety of sports, including golf, soccer, esports and martial arts.

Namely, the fund owns the LIV golf series and is actively pursuing a controversial merger with the PGA Tour. In addition, PIF owns controlling stakes in Newcastle United and four prominent Saudi domestic soccer teams: Al Hilal, Al Nasr, Al Ittihad and Al Ahli.

Hundreds of millions in Esports

While the fund recently divested its stake in the McLaren Group, it has pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into the esports industry. The PIF has also secured minority players in the American Professional Fighters League, a significant competitor to the UFC, and has struck a deal to launch an MMA league and Super Fight division in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has quickly become the epicenter of international sport, hosting an impressive 85 major events spanning horse racing, soccer, golf, boxing and Formula 1. Jeddah, in particular, has been a focal point, hosting events such as the America's Cup sailing regatta, the ATP tennis tournament and the ongoing FIFA Club World Cup.

FIFA World Cup 2034 and many more events in the future Looking ahead, Saudi Arabia has secured hosting rights for several major tournaments, including the finals of the renewed Asian Champions League football tournament, the 2034 Asian Games, the 2027 Asian Cup and the 2029 Winter Olympics.

The pinnacle of these hosting privileges is the anticipated FIFA World Cup in 2034, with many speculating that an Olympic bid is imminent. The volume of investments represents the kingdom's commitment to establish itself as a powerful force in the world of sports, and we can safely say that they already are, even though they do not have any great sporting successes as a country.