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.


Israel bombs Gaza as Middle East tense after Iranian attack

Israel bombs Gaza as Middle East tense after Iranian attack
Updated 1 min 28 sec ago
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Israel bombs Gaza as Middle East tense after Iranian attack

Israel bombs Gaza as Middle East tense after Iranian attack
JERUSALEM: Israel launched more deadly strikes on besieged Gaza on Thursday as world powers watched nervously whether the country would retaliate against a weekend attack by its arch enemy Iran.
The Israeli army said it had bombed dozens of targets in the Palestinian coastal territory of 2.4 million people, more than six months into the bloodiest ever Gaza war.
Weeks of talks toward an Israel-Hamas truce and hostage release deal have stalled, according to Qatar’s prime minister who said the Gulf emirate was now “reassessing our role as mediator.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to destroy Hamas over its October 7 attack on Israel, also stressed on Wednesday that Israel “reserves the right to protect itself” against Iran.
The Islamic republic last weekend carried out its first ever attack to directly target its regional foe but Israel, backed by its allies, intercepted most of the 300 missiles and drones and suffered no deaths.
Iran’s attack was retaliation for an April 1 air strike, which it blamed on Israel, on the consular annex of its embassy in Damascus.
The international community has urged de-escalation since Iran’s attack on Israel which came after months of high tensions and violence involving Israel and Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
“We are on the edge of a war in the Middle East which will be sending shock-waves to the rest of the world,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of a G7 meeting in Capri, Italy.
Iran has warned of “a fierce and severe response” if Israel launches any further attacks after seven of its Revolutionary Guards died in the consular strike.
However, Tehran had also sought to calm tensions through indirect diplomatic channels with its other major adversary, the United States, which is Israel’s top ally and military supplier.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in New York for a UN meeting, said Iran had “tried to tell the United States clearly” that it is “not looking for the expansion of tension in the region.”
Washington has made clear it won’t join any Israeli attack on Iran, but has pledged to instead impose new punitive sanctions against Iran.
The European Union on Wednesday said it would impose new sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile producers.
Israeli public broadcaster Kan said Netanyahu, after discussions with US President Joe Biden, decided not to proceed with pre-arranged plans for retaliatory strikes on Iran.
“Diplomatic sensitivities came into play,” a senior Israeli official told Kan, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official added that there would be a response, but that it would be different to the one initially planned.
US broadcaster ABC News, citing three unnamed Israeli sources, reported that Israel had “prepared for and then aborted retaliatory strikes against Iran on at least two nights this past week.”
Among the range of possible responses considered by Israel were an attack on Iranian proxies in the region or a cyberattack, the sources told ABC.
German airline Lufthansa extended its suspension of flights to and from Tehran and Beirut to the end of April and said its planes would continue avoiding Iranian airspace.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomed a European Union announcement of sanctions on Iran as “an important step” and wrote on X that “Iran must be stopped now before it is too late.”
Iran’s attack on Israel “is succeeding in taking the focus, particularly the media spotlight, off of the Gaza famine and the Gaza war and the loss of life that is taking place there,” Roxane Farmanfarmaian, a Middle East/North Africa specialist at the University of Cambridge’s POLIS department, told AFP.
“And that was very much I think what Israel planned to do,” she said.
An AFP correspondent in Gaza said Israeli artillery shelling and aircraft strikes again hit Gaza City overnight.
The Israeli military said it struck dozens of militant targets over the past day.
The war started after Hamas launched their unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,970 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll on Thursday from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Gaza’s civil defense said Thursday it had recovered 11 more bodies in the southern city of Khan Yunis during the night.
Israel had also bombed the far-southern city of Rafah.
Gaza rescue crews recovered the corpses of eight family members, including five children and two women, from a house in Rafah’s Al-Salam neighborhood, the civil defense service said.
One woman in Rafah, Jamalat Ramidan, told AFP she and crying children fled the carnage of a strike, stumbling over “body parts and corpses scattered all over the place.”
Talks toward a ceasefire have stalled, said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, despite months of effort also involving United States and Egyptian officials.
He said his country was undertaking “a complete re-evaluation of its role because there has been damage to Qatar,” which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Israel has faced growing global opposition to the Gaza war, which the United Nations and aid agencies say has left the north of the territory on the brink of famine.
Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected this, saying Israeli efforts were “above and beyond” what is needed “on the humanitarian issue,” his office said.
The UN Security Council was preparing to vote soon on an Algeria-drafted resolution for full United Nations membership for a Palestinian state, diplomatic sources said.
However, the veto-wielding United States has repeatedly expressed opposition to such a move.

ilmi, PNU launch museum studies program

ilmi, PNU launch museum studies program
Updated 8 sec ago
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ilmi, PNU launch museum studies program

ilmi, PNU launch museum studies program
  • New micro-credential courses open to all high-school graduates, undergraduates
  • Program includes Arabic, English, in-person, remote, long and short-term courses

RIYADH: A new museum studies program in Saudi Arabia has opened for registration, offering micro-credential and long-term courses.

It is the result of a partnership between ilmi, a center for science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and mathematics learning, and Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.

ilmi — meaning “my knowledge” in Arabic — is a science and innovation center that aims to empower young people in Saudi Arabia.

A philanthropic NGO initiative created by Princess Sara bint Mashour bin Abdulaziz, wife of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ilmi is incubated, supported and funded by the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, Misk, as a subsidiary, and operates in partnership with Mohammed bin Salman Nonprofit City.

The museum studies program includes micro-credential, diploma, minor and elective courses.

It is open to recent high-school graduates and university undergraduates keen to secure entry-level positions in museums, as well as professionals seeking new skill sets and career paths.

Created by ilmi and PNU experts from Saudi Arabia and around the world, the program offers a blend of online and in-person learning, alongside Arabic and English tuition options.

Micro-credential courses will blend online and in-person learning, and are available to applicants over the age of 18.

Courses include museum impact studies, museum education and awareness, an introduction to museum technologies, fundamentals of museum management and integrating digital technology.

Courses on offer for PNU students include an introduction to museums elective and specialist minors in museums and digital technology, exhibit design and content development.

A two-year diploma in museum management will also be available for both PNU students and recent high-school graduates.

Registration has opened for the first online micro-credential course starting this month: Fundamentals of museum management.

All further micro-credential courses will take place in May and June, with the diploma, minor and elective programs starting in September at the beginning of the academic year 2024/25.

Program graduates can also apply to work alongside ilmi experts as they design and launch unique, informal learning programs across the Kingdom.

For more information and registration, visit the link.


Closing Bell: TASI ends the week in green with trading turnover at $2.18bn

Closing Bell: TASI ends the week in green with trading turnover at $2.18bn
Updated 13 min 15 sec ago
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Closing Bell: TASI ends the week in green with trading turnover at $2.18bn

Closing Bell: TASI ends the week in green with trading turnover at $2.18bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Thursday, gaining 36.37 points, or 0.29 percent, to close at 12,502.35.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.19 billion ($2.18 billion) as 130 stocks advanced, while 90 retreated. 

The MSCI Tadawul Index also increased by 5.98 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 1,575.11.

The Kingdom’s parallel market, Nomu, followed suit and gained 305.77 points, or 1.16 percent, to close at 26,418.75. This comes as 33 stocks advanced, while as many as 27 retreated.

The best-performing stock on the main index was Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co., as its share price rose by 7.69 percent to SR30.80.

Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Co. also performed well as its share price saw a 6.79 percent increase to close at SR20.16.

This comes as Abu Dhabi National Insurance Co. completed a strategic acquisition of a 51 percent stake in Allianz, according to the Emirates News Agency, WAM.

ADNIC Chairman Mohamed Al- Nahyan told WAM: “The connection between the UAE and Saudi Arabia is deep, mutually beneficial and ever-growing. At ADNIC, we see Saudi Arabia as a high-potential market which perfectly aligns with our overall growth strategy, and we are looking forward to unlocking new possibilities for growth and success.”

Other top performers include United Cooperative Assurance Co. and Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp. whose share prices soared by 5.68 percent and 5.51 percent, to stand at SR11.16 and SR14.16 respectively.

The worst performer was Alkhaleej Training and Education Co., whose share price dropped by 5.27 percent to SR33.25.

On the announcements front, Saudi mining giant and Public Investment Fund subsidiary, Saudi Arabian Mining Co., known as Ma’aden, announced the launch of single stock options in a statement on Tadawul. 

SSOs will enable local and international investors to effectively hedge and manage portfolio risks as well as diversify products available for trading in the market. 


Philippines’ Marcos features among Time’s 100 most influential people

Philippines’ Marcos features among Time’s 100 most influential people
Updated 21 min 2 sec ago
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Philippines’ Marcos features among Time’s 100 most influential people

Philippines’ Marcos features among Time’s 100 most influential people
  • Other Filipinos previously featured are Rodrigo Duterte, Leila de Lima, Maria Ressa
  • Magazine recognizes Marcos’ attempts to rehabilitate the name of his dictator father and namesake

MANILA: Time magazine has featured Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in its list of the 100 most influential people of 2024, which includes other heads of state, celebrities, scientists and tycoons.

First published in 1999, the annual list recognizes people from various fields for making an impact, breaking records or rules. Entrants are featured for making change — regardless of the consequences of their actions.

Marcos, 66, the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator, won a landslide victory in the 2022 elections. He campaigned on the issue of national unity and portrayed himself as the candidate for change, promising happiness to 110 million Filipinos, weary of pandemic hardships and years of political polarization under his immediate predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

The magazine recognized his efforts to rehabilitate and “whitewash” the name of his father and also highlighted his other achievements in office.

“He brought technocrats back into government, steadied the post-pandemic economy, and elevated the Philippines on the world stage,” Time’s news correspondent Charlie Campbell wrote.

“Many problems persist, including extrajudicial killings and journalists routinely attacked. But by trying to repair his family name, Bongbong may reshape his country too.”

The article also recognized Marcos for standing against Beijing’s claims in the disputed South China Sea, where Chinese ships have been regularly entering the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Standing steadfast against Chinese aggression has also gained him praise at home.

“His policy on the West Philippine Sea of standing up against China is good,” said Raymond Zabala, a lawyer, who was “optimistic and skeptical at the same time” about Marcos’ inclusion in Time’s list, owing to unanswered issues about his family’s ill-gotten wealth and abuses during his father’s rule.

“Given his family’s background and some of the issues during the election campaign, I can’t help but feel critical.”

While appearing on Time’s list is often seen as an honor, Filipinos said they did not see how their country was improving its reputation, although they were observing fewer human rights violations compared with the previous Duterte administration and its “war on drugs,” which according to rights groups has led to the deaths of over 12,000 people.

“The Philippines will be reverting back to its usual image of a corrupt nation, probably minus the extrajudicial killings,” said Crystal Arcega, a law student.

Writer Pam Musni told Arab News she felt the perception of Marcos’ administration was the same as that of his predecessor’s, although “probably less bloodthirsty” and “more emboldened” against China.

“I understand why he was included in the list, with ‘influential’ not necessarily being a good or bad thing,” she said.

“It is especially frustrating that he does not make any significant strides towards the threat of climate change, and that he has expressed support for Israel, a country that has been killing many innocent lives in Palestine.”

A recent Pulse Asia survey showed Marcos’ performance ratings fell from 68 percent in December 2023 to 55 percent in March.

“I’m still waiting to hear how he plans to assert our sovereignty, since that is always a balancing act with the US,” said sustainable development practitioner J.K. Asturias.

Initially enthusiastic about Marcos’ $160 billion infrastructure plans under his Build Better More program, he has been increasingly critical over lack of support for alternative modes of transportation.

“In recent times I’ve been especially disappointed with how they are banning light electric vehicles even though there is a law that says the government should be incentivizing their adoption. I also feel he does a lot of greenwashing, pretending he’s pro-environment even though he pushes for mining,” Asturias said.

For him, the impression that Time’s list would create was one of the Filipinos’ tendency to forget.

“Many people will most likely see the Philippines as a nation that forgets too soon and forgives too much,” he said. “If they don’t think that already.”

Other Filipinos featured by Time have included Duterte and his vocal critic and former senator Leila de Lima in 2017.

Journalist Maria Ressa was recognized by Time in 2019 — two years before becoming a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The late former President Corazon Aquino, a central figure in the ousting of Marcos’ father in the bloodless 1986 People Power Revolution, was Time’s Woman of the Year in 1987.


Pakistan expects to avoid rupee devaluation in new IMF talks — finance minister

Pakistan expects to avoid rupee devaluation in new IMF talks — finance minister
Updated 32 min 54 sec ago
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Pakistan expects to avoid rupee devaluation in new IMF talks — finance minister

Pakistan expects to avoid rupee devaluation in new IMF talks — finance minister
  • No reason for rupee to depreciate more than the range of about 6 percent to 8 percent seen in a typical year, Aurangzeb tells Bloomberg 
  • Pakistan expects IMF mission to visit in May, would like to reach staff-level agreement on new loan by end of June or early July

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new government does not anticipate any significant currency devaluation as part of its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to unlock billions of dollars in lending and bolster the nation’s economic reform agenda, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said in an interview to Bloomberg published on Thursday. 
While massive devaluations have accompanied some of Pakistan’s previous IMF loans and are often a condition of the crisis lender’s programs around the world, nothing comparable should be necessary this time around, Aurangzeb said in an interview on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
“I don’t see the need for any step change,” Aurangzeb said, citing solid foreign-exchange reserves, a stable currency, rising remittances and steady exports. “The only thing which can be a wild card, although in our projections we should be OK, is the oil price.”
He added there would be no reason for the rupee to depreciate more than the range of about 6 percent to 8 percent seen in a typical year. 
Pakistan last devalued its currency in January 2023.
Aurangzeb, 59, said the new government in Islamabad was looking to bolster industries including agriculture and information technology with support that it hopes will help push the nation’s growth above 4 percent in the coming years.
In its talks with the IMF, Pakistan plans to seek a traditional IMF loan through the institution’s so-called extended fund facility. It also wants to get money via the IMF’s new Resilience and Sustainability Trust, which works to strengthen low-income and vulnerable countries against external shocks like floods that devastated Pakistan in 2022.
One of the new government’s tasks will be to steer the country out of a high-inflation and low-growth pattern. It also faces about $24 billion in external financing needs in the fiscal year starting July, about three times its reserves. 
Aurangzeb said Pakistan was in “relatively good shape” to make those payments.
Pakistan needs to repay “a couple of billion dollars” in the present fiscal year but reserves are expected to reach around $10 billion by the end of June from $8 billion now, said Aurangzeb. The dollar reserves currently cover about two months of imports.
Pakistan expects an IMF mission to visit in May and would like to reach a staff-level agreement on its next loan by the end of June or early July, Aurangzeb said, without specifying how much the nation was seeking. Bloomberg News earlier reported that the nation plans to ask for at least $6 billion.
Securing a new deal may also boost Pakistan’s dollar bonds and stock market, which have handed investors one of the best gains globally since the nation began the current IMF loan last July. The IMF executive board is expected to approve the final disbursement this month from the nation’s existing $3 billion loan that helped it avert a default on its debt last year.
Key objectives in the loan negotiations will include broadening the tax base, improving debt sustainability and restoring viability to the energy sector, the IMF said last month. These are steps that Pakistan has avoided for decades because of their unpopularity among a nation of more than 250 million people.
Pakistan in recent years increased tax revenue and energy prices to meet IMF demands but hasn’t been able to make progress on long-term structural issues such as privatizing state-owned companies.