Vision 2030 opens up sports opportunities beyond the pitch
In the past, there has generally been limited encouragement and focus in Saudi Arabia on sports – participation in sports, and development of sports infrastructure – with the limited exception of Saudi’s soccer clubs. Participation in major sports events, such as the Olympics, has also been very limited. Women’s participation in sports has been particularly limited.
There are encouraging signs that this may be changing following the announcement of Vision 2030 and subsequent announcements and developments.
Saudi Vision 2030 was announced in April 2016 and represents Saudi Arabia’s plan not only to diversify its economy and address the challenges brought by low global energy prices but also to implement far-reaching social and lifestyle changes.
One of the goals of Vision 2030 is “creating a vibrant society with fulfilling lives” through among other things “the promotion of physical and social well-being and a healthy lifestyle.”
Vision 2030 acknowledges that opportunities for playing sports in Saudi Arabia have previously been limited and recognizes the importance of sports as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The Kingdom’s blueprint toward the future includes “encouraging widespread and regular participation in sports and athletic activities, (and) working in partnership with the private sector to establish additional dedicated facilities and programs.”
The Saudi Cabinet approved new regulatory arrangements for the General Authority for Sports, currently chaired by Turki Al-Asheikh, in a bid to develop the country’s sports sector.
The sports authority has launched a series of notable initiatives, which include providing financial support to the Saudi national clubs, and building strong relations with continental and international sports associations.
Other key executives have joined in as well to implement the vision including Prince Abdul Aziz Turki Al-Faisal, as deputy chairman, and Princess Rima bint Bandar, as head of Saudi Federation for Community Sports and VP for development and planning.
In my opinion, several other sport-related industries will also benefit from the growth of sports in the Kingdom, as part of a “multiplier effect.” I would expect to see sizeable indirect impact in the food and hospitality sectors, construction and media sectors.
On its July 11th agenda, the BMG Economic Forum, which is part one of the annual BMG Summer Retreat, will tackle investment opportunities in the sports industry and their impact on the national economy.
With certain soccer clubs in the premier league earmarked for public listing (IPO) and the newly established sports federations gearing up for international competitions, inward investments and local tourism will be positively impacted.
As for part two, BMG Foundation will host its annual polo cup which has been running for the past 21 years with the participation of Saudi players including Amr Zaidan.
Under the imminent kick-off of the Saudi Polo Federation and its future agenda to develop the sport of polo, I can’t wait to see Saudi youth, including my son Bader, begin taking polo lessons and eventually start competing in national and international matches.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.