PARIS, France - Saudi Arabia has announced a major privatization project for sports in the Kingdom, aiming to boost the revenue and make value of its football league and attract big-name players from around the world.
The project, which is part of the government’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, will allow companies and development agencies to invest in and take over several state-owned sports clubs, starting in the forth quarter of 2023.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF), the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, will own 75 percent of four of the top football cubs in the Saudi Professional League: Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr and Al Hilal. The remaining 25 percent will be owned by non-profit foundations for each club.
Al Nassr made headlines last year when it signed Portuguese soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus for a reported $117 million. Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in 28 appearance for the club so far.
Other clubs are also eyeing big-name signings. Al Hilal has reportedly made a formal offer to Argentine star Lionel Messi, who is currently playing for Paris Saint-Germain. Al Ittihad has reached an agreement with French striker Karim Benzema for a two-year deal, according to Saudi state media.
The kingdom aims to increase the revenue of its football league to 1.8 billion riyals ($480 million) annually by 2030 from 450 million riyals ($120 million) currently. It also expects the league’s market value to rise to more than 8 billion riyals (2.1 billion) over the same period.
The privatization project will also include other sports clubs in different sectors and levels, such as basketball, volleyball, and handball. Some of these clubs will be owned by other entities, such as NEOM, Aramco, the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, and Diriyah Gate Development Authority.
The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to develop its sports sector and promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles among its population. The kingdom also hopes to enhance its international reputation and influence in the sporting world by hosting major events and tournaments.