Events like Formula E can turn Saudi Arabia into global sporting hub: DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo

Jerry Inzerillo, Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO, said he hopes to continue attracting world class sporting events such as Formula E to Saudi Arabia. (Supplied/DGDA)
Updated 22 November 2019

Events like Formula E can turn Saudi Arabia into global sporting hub: DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo

  • Plans for Diriyah as tourist destination are closely aligned with Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030
  • This year’s edition of Diriyah Season — of which Formula E forms a part — sees the venue hosting four major international sporting events

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, with the help of locations like Diriyah, can become a global sporting hub in the future, according to the CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).
Speaking ahead of the new season of Formula E in Diriyah on Nov. 22-23 — the motor racing series featuring battery powered cars — Jerry Inzerillo said he hopes to continue attracting world class sporting events to Saudi Arabia.
“If the popularity of ticket sales — such as those for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ on December 7 — are anything to go by, we sold all 15,000 tickets in 36 hours, we will be successful in our mission,” he said.
“Diriyah is a very special place, and an emotional one. The spectacular setting, with the backdrop of UNESCO Heritage Site At Turaif, and Salwa Palace give all events a very unique quality and this definitely sets us apart from more modern stadiums and urban venues,” he added.
Inzerillo said the plans for Diriyah as a tourist destination are closely aligned with the Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030 for tourism in the Kingdom.
“The E-visa has opened up the Kingdom to many new visitors, and we have been overwhelmed by the number of applications over the past month.
“We are aiming to attract 27 million visitors per year by 2030 – 20 million from Saudi Arabia and the rest from overseas.
“With a deep-rooted and rich history, cultural elements will form the glue of Diriyah. We will open eight new museums, which will sit alongside vibrant residential areas, world-class hotels and a huge number of entertainment and sports projects including an Aman resort and a Greg Norman championship golf course. In total, we are aiming for 90+ historical activities and 86 prioritized assets,” he said.
This year’s edition of Diriyah Season — of which Formula E forms a part — sees the venue hosting four major international sporting events, something that has been a challenging, but exciting, project for Inzerillo.
“We are including a strong element of entertainment in all that we do. I am very grateful to my talented team, who are working around the clock to ensure that all our planned events – from the Formula E, the heavyweight boxing championship and the five weeks of Diriyah Season — are delivered without a glitch,” he said.
The DGDA CEO is also envisaging this year’s Formula E weekend will surpass the success of last year’s event.
“We welcomed 40,000 people to Formula E last year, and this year will far exceed that number. We learned from last year and have successfully hosted many major events since then, so are confident we are race ready.
“As with everything we do, we are aiming for bigger and better this year. Watch this space,” he said.
Inzerillo believes the hosting of high profile events such as Formula E can spread a new image of the Kingdom to the world.
“I hope that these events will show the world that Saudi Arabia has taken massive and quick strides in opening up its heritage and its stories to the world.
“It is wonderful to me to be able to start to present a new story for Saudi, to continue to build on those that they have been told for years. Hosting all of these great sporting events also plays to the Vision 2030 — and what better place to have them all than in the birthplace of the Kingdom,” he said.
While his focus has partly been on attracting regional and global visitors to the Kingdom for events like Formula E, Inzerillo’s plans also include enticing Saudi citizens as well.
“Diriyah is a place for the Saudi people, created by Saudi hands, by bringing awareness and exposure to the stories around Diriyah, we are reconnecting Saudis to their culture and heritage, to find, or to reacquaint themselves with their identity.
“We are also proud to be able to tell a new story, one of openness, vibrancy and generosity. And of course, the weekend will be fun, memorable and filled with world-class entertainment.”


Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

Updated 09 July 2020

Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

ROME: Preparing to complete a ninth Serie A campaign without winning the Scudetto, AC Milan decided returning to the pinnacle of football required a new approach.

Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation is at the center of it, linking up with Milan to scour the world for sponsors and use concerts and other high-profile events to attract new fans.

And who better to ask about how to end a title drought than the team that just won their league for the first time in 30 years?

“We have been talking to Liverpool,” Milan chief revenue officer Casper Stylsvig told The Associated Press, “because they’ve been through the same path as we are going through now.”

Milan are enduring their longest Serie A drought since the 1980s. Despite beating leader Juventus on Tuesday, even the top four Champions League places are out of reach in this pandemic-delayed season. It’s been seven years since Milan last competed in Europe’s elite competition.

“We’re working very hard to get back to where we should be, and from that perspective, it does help open doors when you have won seven Champions Leagues,” Stylsvig said. 

“Playing European football is top of the agenda. It is our natural habitat and somewhere we should be.”

Only Real Madrid has lifted the European Cup more often than Milan. But that seventh title was won 13 years ago, by beating Liverpool.

Now Liverpool are the lodestar for Milan, which have fallen to 21st in the Deloitte ranking of football’s moneymakers with revenue of €206.3 million  ($234 million) in the last financial year, a third of the income at the newly crowned Premier League champions.

“Four, five years ago, no one considered Liverpool and see where they are now,” Stylsvig said. “They obviously play very attractive football. They are winning, they have a fantastic manager, a fantastic team and now they are following suit from a commercial perspective. It has taken time, but their model seems to work.”

Liverpool have been run for a decade by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group. Milan have also had American ownership for three years since the takeover by the Elliott Management hedge fund.

“We are obviously a global brand,” Stylsvig said in a telephone interview. “I’ve probably been talking too much in the Italian market in the last few years and (the coronavirus) sort of pushed us to think more global again.”

The pandemic that shut down sports produced the first public manifestation of the partnership with Roc Nation when Milan staged a live virtual fundraising concert headlined by Alicia Keys.

“I do think merging sport and entertainment could be the way of engaging new fans,” Stylsvig said. “The world has changed dramatically and we need to follow suit. Roc Nation is helping us, challenging us with that, having someone on the sideline to do that.”

The biggest audiences logging in to watch “From Milan with Love” were from China and the US.

With no games being played during the three-month Serie A shutdown — and crowds still prohibited from matches — Milan have had to find new ways of connecting with its fan base and fulfilling commercial deals.

“It’s been incredibly challenging,” Stylsvig said. “You basically have to rethink the model. So one of the first things we did was focusing much more on a digital space, creating content and trying to be engaging and trying to talk to our partners.”

Further down the line is moving into a new stadium, with plans to rebuild the San Siro it shares with Inter Milan.

“That will change the club,” Stylsvig said. “The revenues are incredibly important but also for the perception of the club.”