How the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation could have a major impact on the global game

Analysis How the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation could have a major impact on the global game
The SACF has driven a rapid development of the sport in the Kingdom. (Twitter: @cricketsaudi)
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Updated 12 June 2023
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How the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation could have a major impact on the global game

How the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation could have a major impact on the global game
  • Under the supervision of Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud, the SACF has driven a rapid development of the sport in the Kingdom
  • The privatization initiative that has swept the nation’s football and other sports could benefit Saudi cricket as well

According to a survey conducted in 2008, 90 percent of International Cricket Council members were in favor of cricket being included in the Olympics.

In addition, the MCC World Cricket Committee, an independent research institution comprised of prominent cricketing figures, also supported the idea of cricket being included in the Olympics. However, 15 years later, the sport appears to be regressing in that respect, with the most recent World Cup featuring only 10 teams — compared to 14 teams in the 2011 and 2015 editions.

Today, the ICC has put forward a new revenue-sharing model for the 2024-27 cycle, which is set to be voted on at the organization’s July board meeting in Durban. Under the proposal, the 12 full members of the ICC would collectively receive 88.8 percent of the organization’s annual earnings, with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCC, alone claiming 38.5 percent of the revenue. The remaining amount, which constitutes just over 10 percent, would be distributed among the ICC’s 94 associate members.

The proposed revenue model has been the subject of concern among several associate member boards, who have expressed their apprehension that the proposal heavily favors the powerhouses of cricket and could impede the progression of the sport.

While many associate members lack the resources and financial muscle to have a strong influence on ICC decisions, the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, or SACF, has the potential to make a significant impact.

Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in sports as part of its broader Vision 2030. Purchases and partnerships have already been formed by the Kingdom in sports such as football, Formula One, LIV Golf, WWE and, unsurprisingly, cricket.

Under the supervision of Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud, the SACF has been on a transformation, which in return has resulted in the development of cricket in Saudi Arabia. The chairman, Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud, has formed strong relationships with various full member boards and high-profile international cricketers.

“We have developed great relationships with the ICC, ACC, successful international cricket boards and big cricketers,” he told Arab News.

The SACF raised the profile of the sport, invested in local talent, and created opportunities for players of all levels to compete. This resulted in the Saudi National Cricket team winning the inaugural ACC Men’s Challenger Cup 2023 in Bangkok and placing themselves on the map as a rising cricketing nation.

Furthermore, in February of last year, the Saudi Tourism Authority revealed its collaboration with the Indian Premier League — the most lucrative franchise-based cricket league. This was following Aramco’s alliance with the ICC, which includes sponsorship until the end of 2023.

These two agreements demonstrate the significance of cricket and how seriously it is taken by the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia also made headlines around the world when the SACF teased for a proposed franchise-based cricket league, which the Guardian called “(potentially) the world’s most lucrative Twenty20 tournament.”

ICC Chairman Greg Barclay was also asked about the proposed league and was quoted as saying: “Given their advance into sport more generally, cricket would work quite well for Saudi Arabia. They’re pretty keen to invest in sport and given their regional presence, cricket would seem a pretty obvious one to pursue.”

Last week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman introduced a new initiative in Saudi Arabia aimed at promoting private investment in the sports industry, with a focus on developing national teams and regional sports clubs.

This project was set in motion by the privatization of four major football clubs and is expected to have a ripple effect on other sports. Saudi cricket, which has already hinted at the creation of a franchise-based league, is poised to benefit greatly from the government’s efforts to increase commercialization within the sport.

Having all this leverage, it would only make sense for the SACF to make a noteworthy impact at the upcoming ICC board meeting. Having established partnerships with key players such as boards, players and teams, the support from the cricket community could translate into influence over decisions made by the ICC.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the SACF may face an uphill battle while increasing their impact over the game. The ICC is currently dominated by countries with strong cricketing traditions such as India, England and Australia. As a relatively new player in the cricket world, Saudi Arabia may find it difficult to break into this elite group and establish a significant influence.

The “Big Three” — India, Australia, and England — have been dominating decision-making about the sport for the past decade. In 2014, these three cricket boards proposed a controversial plan that gave them greater decision-making powers and a larger share of the ICC revenue.

Critics of the plan argued that this was an unfair distribution of resources and would further widen the gap between rich and poor cricketing nations. Due to lack of transparency as well as other concerning factors, the plan was ultimately rejected by the ICC in 2016.

The controversy surrounding the plan highlighted a need for fairness and equality in the governance of cricket. Today, an associate member — Saudi Arabia, finds itself in a position that is unprecedented in the history of cricket.

Ultimately, the extent to which the SACF chooses to make their voices heard depends on their leadership and their long-term goals. However, there is no doubt that today Saudi Arabia is a major stakeholder in the cricketing world.


Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders
Updated 4 min 13 sec ago
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Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced that visit visa holders are not allowed to enter or stay in Makkah during May 23-June 21 as access to the city will be limited to Hajj visa holders.

The ministry stressed that all types of visit visa are not a permit to perform Hajj, adding that violators will be subject to penalties according to Saudi laws and regulations.


Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7

Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7
Updated 33 min 21 sec ago
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Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7

Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7
  • The three-minute clip showed the women sitting on the ground, some with blood on their faces, with their hands tied
  • The footage was taken from a two-hour video filmed on a body camera by Hamas militants

JERUSALEM: An Israeli campaign group on Wednesday released footage of five Israeli female soldiers being captured by Palestinian militants from a military base during Hamas’s October 7 attack, after their families gave permission.

The three-minute clip showed the women sitting on the ground, some with blood on their faces, with their hands tied following their capture from the Nahal Oz base in southern Israel.

The footage was taken from a two-hour video filmed on a body camera by Hamas militants during the attack, the campaign group the Hostage and Missing Families Forum said in a statement.

“The footage reveals the violent, humiliating, and traumatising treatment the girls endured on the day of their abduction, their eyes filled with raw terror,” the forum said as it released the footage to the media for publication.

Towards the end of the clip, the women are seen being taken away by militants in a military jeep amid screams.

“It’s time to act, otherwise the blood of my sister and other hostages will be on the hands” of the Israeli authorities, Sasha Ariev, sister of one of the seized soldiers, told AFP.

“Everyone has now seen these young girls taken captive in their pyjamas... the only victory is to bring them back quickly and alive.”

After the base was stormed by Hamas militants on October 7, more than 50 Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack, 15 of whom were women.

Seven female soldiers were taken hostage and one has since been freed in an Israeli military operation, while the body of another was found and brought to Israel.

Hamas said the video footage was “manipulated” with a selection of images aimed at supporting “false allegations” to “tarnish the image of the resistance.”

Some of the soldiers were bleeding or sustained minor injuries, “but there was no physical aggression against any of them,” the Palestinian Islamist movement said in a statement.

Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under intense pressure from the families of the hostages to negotiate the return of their loved ones from Gaza.

Netanyahu vowed in a statement on Wednesday to continue fighting Hamas to “ensure what we have seen tonight never happens again.”

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,709 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The Israeli military says 287 soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run

Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run
Updated 36 min 53 sec ago
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Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run

Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run
  • Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy

DUBLIN: Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta ended Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-match unbeaten run to win the Europa League final 3-0 on Wednesday and claim their first trophy for 61 years.
Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy.
“One of the best nights of my life. Amazing performance from the team,” said Lookman.
“We’ve got to celebrate, we made history tonight.”
The side from Bergamo have long lived in the shadow of nearby giants AC and Inter Milan.
However, they have enjoyed a golden era under Gian Piero Gasperini, reaching the Champions League on four occasions, and now have silverware to show for it.
Leverkusen have made a habit of late fightbacks in their remarkable run to winning a first ever Bundesliga title without tasting defeat.
But this time they failed to dig themselves out of a hole created by a slow start.
“It’s a shame that the time it didn’t work out for us was in a final,” said Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka.
“It’s bitter, definitely, we lost a final today but we go on and we’ll make up for it on Saturday (in the German Cup final).
Atalanta’s more purposeful play in the opening stages was rewarded after just 12 minutes.
Davide Zappacosta got to the by-line and Lookman caught Exequiel Palacios napping to fire into the top corner at the back post.
The Nigerian has at times endured a nomadic career, bouncing around the lower reaches of the Premier League on loan spells at Fulham and Leicester after being discarded by RB Leipzig.
But Lookman has found a home in Bergamo, where he will now forever be a hero.

The 26-year-old’s second goal was fit to win any final as he nutmegged Xhaka before curling a powerful shot into the far corner.
Leverkusen’s flying full-backs have been at the heart of their stunning season and should have got them back in the game either side of half-time.
Alex Grimaldo fired tamely into the arms of Juan Musso before Jeremie Frimpong blazed over with the goal gaping.
Leverkusen were also denied a lifeline when Gianluca Scamacca was lucky to escape with a yellow card for wild challenge on Florian Wirtz.
For the fourth time in seven Europa League knockout matches, Xabi Alonso’s men found themselves 2-0 down.
Alonso has enjoyed a rapid rise to become one of Europe’s hottest coaching properties.
The Spaniard has rejected the advances of former clubs Liverpool and Bayern Munich to remain at the BayArena next season.
However, Alonso’s decision to start without a recognized striker did not work and he threw on Victor Boniface at half-time to give his side a focal point up front.
The damage, though, was already done as the German champions looked a side drained by their record run across three competitions.
Atalanta were happy to soak up the Leverkusen pressure after the break and hit on the counter-attack.
The final blow was another fabulous finish from Lookman as he skipped past Edmond Tapsoba and this time blasted into the top corner on his weaker left foot.
Atalanta had lost all three of their previous finals under Gasperini, most recently in last week’s Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus.
But this time they were not to be denied their shot at history as they were roared across the finishing line by the thousands clad in blue and black that had made the trip from northern Italy to the Irish capital.
In doing so they became the first Italian side to win the competition since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999.


Spotify spotlights Khaleeji music in New York’s Times Square

Spotify spotlights Khaleeji music in New York’s Times Square
Updated 34 min 38 sec ago
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Spotify spotlights Khaleeji music in New York’s Times Square

Spotify spotlights Khaleeji music in New York’s Times Square
  • Saudi artist Sultan Al-Murshed and Iraqi artist Aseel Hameem have been selected as Spotify’s RADAR Arabia and EQUAL Arabia artists for May

DUBAI: Spotify is spotlighting Saudi artist Sultan Al-Murshed and Iraqi artist Aseel Hameem, who have been selected as Spotify’s RADAR Arabia and EQUAL Arabia artists for May, in New York’s Times Square.

“We continue to be committed to showcasing and celebrating genres and creators reflecting different spectrums of Arabic music,” said Nada Elmeri, Spotify’s Artist and Label Partnerships Manager for the Gulf Region at Spotify MENA.

This month was dedicated to celebrating Khaleeji Pop — a genre “that has played a pivotal role in our childhood memories yet continues to resonate with young listeners and is met with a lot of loyalty from fans across different generations,” Elmeri told Arab News.

Al-Murshed, a rising star from Saudi Arabia, was selected as this month’s RADAR Arabia artist for winning listeners over with his melodies and vocals.

His debut single “Wala Ghaltah,” released in 2022, has amassed over 1 million streams on Spotify. Over the last month or so, his streams have increased by 73 percent and fans have saved his music 97 percent more over the same period.

He also worked with renowned DJ and producer R3HAB and Big Bo in 2022 for the official Gamers8 anthem, “Challenge.”

This month’s EQUAL Arabia artist is Aseel Hameem, daughter of renowned Iraqi musician Kareem Hameem, who began her musical journey when she was a young girl. Her talent was evident quickly garnering her the nickname “The Guitar of Iraq.”

Despite her Iraqi roots, Hameem has mastered singing in the Saudi and Khaleeji dialects, gaining substantial support in Saudi Arabia. Her most popular hits include “Shkad Helw” and “Al Mafrod” with the latter garnering over 14 million streams on Spotify.

Her latest release, “Mostafz Alnas,” has resonated with audiences in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Germany, and the US, Spotify said.

Throughout May, Spotify is running a promotional campaign to boost Hameem’s work including editorial placements and social media support.

Both Al-Murshed and Hameem were featured on a billboard in New York City’s Times Square as well as on the covers of the RADAR Arabia and EQUAL Arabia playlists on Spotify this month.

“To spotlight the (Khaleeji Pop) genre in an impactful way, we featured two Khaleeji artists across different career journeys,” said Elmeri.

Al-Murshed “represents the new wave of the genre” while Hameem “has been a force over the years with her presence visible on our Saudi Wrapped lists,” she added.

RADAR Arabia and EQUAL Arabia are Spotify’s global music programs aimed at supporting emerging artists and female artists respectively.


Advocacy groups make fresh appeal to ICJ to allow international media access to Gaza

Advocacy groups make fresh appeal to ICJ to allow international media access to Gaza
Updated 43 min 38 sec ago
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Advocacy groups make fresh appeal to ICJ to allow international media access to Gaza

Advocacy groups make fresh appeal to ICJ to allow international media access to Gaza
  • Foreign journalists have been prevented from entering Gaza since beginning of the conflict, except under Israeli army supervision
  • Group of nine signatories issued statement in support of South Africa’s request arguing ban could hamper future accountability

LONDON: Media advocacy groups have made a fresh appeal to the International Court of Justice to allow unimpeded media access to Gaza.

The request, signed by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, ARTICLE 19, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and five other media advocacy groups, was made following South Africa’s demand for the court to order Israel to facilitate access for international journalists to the Gaza Strip.

“Despite the valiant efforts of Palestinian journalists who continue reporting despite a daily struggle to survive, Israel’s censorious actions make it nearly impossible to comprehensively, continuously and independently document what is happening on the ground in Gaza and risk significantly hampering future accountability efforts,” the signatories said in a statement issued in support of South Africa’s demand.

The statement noted that journalists, independent human rights investigators, fact-finding missions, and the International Criminal Court still do not have access to Gaza, prohibiting the effective preservation and retention of evidence of potential war crimes. 

The signatories highlighted recent media suppression by Israeli authorities towards Al Jazeera in May and the Associated Press this week, coupled with the conditions under which local journalists operate, making unrestricted media access to the Gaza Strip ever more “urgent and vital.”

CPJ Director of Advocacy and Communications Gypsy Guillen Kaiser said in a statement: “Any censorship of developments in Gaza creates an information void ripe for propaganda and mis- and disinformation that has consequences for public accountability and people’s lives.”

Since the beginning of the conflict, Israeli authorities have implemented a near-total ban on foreign media entering Gaza.

Despite repeated appeals, only a few exceptions have been made for certain networks and journalists, and even then, only under the direct supervision of the Israeli military.

Experts argue that this approach has forced international media to rely heavily on overburdened Palestinian journalists and risk significantly hampering future accountability efforts.

“Journalists have historically played a critical role in contemporaneously investigating and preserving the evidence of war crimes in genocides and other atrocities,” read the letter, adding that in January, the ICJ issued an order to Israel requesting authorities to “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts.

“Israel’s continuing assault on journalists, freedom of expression and people’s right to access information violates international human rights and humanitarian law,” added ARTICLE 19 Senior Director for Law and Policy Barbora Bukovska.

“It defies the ICJ’s January order for evidence to be preserved as the conflict continues and will hinder accountability efforts. It is therefore vital that the ICJ is crystal clear this time around that Israel’s actions must stop.”