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.


Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support

Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support
Updated 1 min 56 sec ago
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Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support

Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support
  • Universities in the US were rocked by pro-Palestinian demonstrations in April, triggering campus clashes with police and the arrest of dozens of people
TEHRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised university students in the United States for their protests over the rising death toll in the war in Gaza.
“You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front,” said Khamenei, referring to Tehran-aligned armed groups across the Middle East arrayed against arch-foe Israel which is also known as the Axis of Resistance.
“As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it,” he said in a letter published on his official website on Thursday.
Universities in the United States were rocked by pro-Palestinian demonstrations in April, triggering campus clashes with police and the arrest of dozens of people.
The demonstrations began at Columbia University in New York and later spread across the country as well as to Europe and elsewhere.
Tehran has reiterated support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip.
The assault resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry
Regional tensions have since soared, drawing in Iran-backed militant groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
Tit-for-tat escalations led to Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel last month.

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
Updated 6 min 39 sec ago
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Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
  • Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds

KYIV: Russia is building up forces near the northern part of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region where it launched an offensive this month, but it still lacks the troop numbers to stage a major push in the area, Ukraine’s top commander said on Thursday.
Ukraine says it has stabilized the front in the northeastern Kharkiv region where Russian forces launched a cross-border assault on May 10 that opened a new front in the 27-month-old war and stretched Kyiv’s outnumbered troops.
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds to bulk up its troops on two main lines of attack in Kharkiv region’s north.
That includes the Strilecha-Lyptsi area between two small villages and the vicinity of the border town of Vovchansk where there has been street fighting.
“These forces are currently insufficient for a large-scale offensive and breakthrough of our defense,” Syrskyi said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Ukraine’s “creation of an ammunition reserve” had also reduced the offensive capabilities of Russian forces.
The remark suggested Kyiv’s acute shortages of artillery ammunition had eased since the United States finally approved a major aid package in April after months of delay.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that American weapons being delivered were helping to stabilize the Ukrainian front lines.
Russia has concentrated most of its offensive pressure in Ukraine’s east where its troops have been able to make slow incremental advances since capturing the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region in February.


Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
Updated 22 min 50 sec ago
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Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
  • Army says adversaries are using Afghanistan to target security forces and civilians inside Pakistan
  • In veiled reference to ex-PM Khan and his party, army says will defeat “politically motivated digital terrorism” 

ISLAMABAD: The top commanders of the Pakistan army met on Thursday and discussed ‘serious concerns’ about cross-border attacks they said were orchestrated by militants using safe havens in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as the use of social media by “politically motivated” internal actors to sow discord between the military and the public.
The views were expressed at the 83rd Formation Commanders Conference held at the military’s GHQ headquarters in Rawalpindi and attended by Army Chief General Asim Munir, all corps commanders, principal staff officers and formation commanders of the Pakistan army.
In a press conference held earlier this month, Pakistan’s military had said a suicide bombing in March that killed five Chinese engineers was planned in neighboring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was an Afghan national. Previously also, the government and army have blamed militants harboring in Afghanistan for a surge in attacks in Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have soured in recent months as Islamabad says Kabul is not doing enough to tackle militant groups targeting Pakistan. In March, Pakistan also carried out airstrikes targeting militants on Afghan territory. The Taliban have rejected Islamabad’s accusations, saying Pakistan is responsible for its own security challenges.
Since late last year, Pakistan has expelled almost half a million undocumented Afghan nationals, saying the majority of suicide attacks against its security forces were carried out by Afghans, a charge Kabul rejects.
“The forum expressed serious concerns over continued cross-border violations from Afghanistan and terrorism being orchestrated using Afghan soil, noting that Pakistan’s adversaries were using Afghanistan to target Security Forces and innocent civilians inside Pakistan,” a statement from the army said after the corp commanders’ meeting on Thursday.
Talking about internal challenges, the statement, in a veiled reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, said “politically motivated and vested digital terrorism” had been unleashed by “conspirators duly abetted by their foreign cohorts against state institutions.”
“[It] is clearly meant to try to induce despondency in the Pakistani nation, to sow discord among national institutions, especially the Armed Forces, and the people of Pakistan by peddling blatant lies, fake news, and propaganda,” the statement said. 
“However, the nation is fully cognizant of their ugly and ulterior motives and surely the designs of these nefarious forces will be comprehensively defeated.”
The military remains the country’s most powerful institution and has for decades had a huge role in making and breaking governments. Khan accuses the military of a crackdown on him and his party, which the army denies.
Although Khan is widely believed to have been brought to power in 2018 with the backing of the army, he fell out with top generals and by April 2022 was ousted from the PM’s office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He has since led a defiant campaign against the army, which he accuses of working with his political rivals to unseat him. 
Tensions between Khan and the army reached a crescendo on May 9 last year when alleged supporters of the PTI attacked and damaged government and military installations. Hundreds of PTI supporters and leaders were arrested following the riots and some continue to remain behind bars as they await trial. The army has also initiated military court trials of at least 103 people accused of involvement in the violence. Many close Khan aides have since deserted him, due to what is widely believed to be pressure from the army, which denies interfering in politics.
“The planners, perpetrators, abettors, and facilitators of 9th May need to be brought to justice for the collective good of the country, and that without swift and transparent dispensation of justice to the culprits and establishing the rule of law, stability in the country will ever remain hostage to the machinations of such elements,” the army statement concluded. 
Khan and the PTI say the May riots have been used as a ruse by political rivals and the military to crack down on the party, which is arguably the most popular in Pakistan. Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with the violence. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges, saying he was in detention when the violence took place.
Khan was also handed four court convictions ahead of Feb. 8 general elections, which ruled him out of the polls as convicted individuals cannot run for public office under Pakistani law. Khan says all the cases are motivated to keep him away from politics.


Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts

Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts
Updated 21 min 12 sec ago
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Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts

Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts
  • Prince Faisal reiterated calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an uninterrupted flow of aid into the enclave

BEIJING: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday praised China’s support for efforts to end the war on Gaza and push for the two-state solution.

In his address at the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing, Prince Faisal reiterated calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an uninterrupted flow of aid into the enclave.

He called for deeper cooperation to establish a reliable and irreversible path to the two-state solution, noting that constant dialogue is crucial for achieving regional peace.

He rejected foreign interference in the Middle East and called for efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the region.

China hosted a summit on Thursday focusing on the Israel-Hamas war in which Chinese President Xi Jinping promised more humanitarian aid in Gaza and called for an international peace conference.

The summit, attended by heads of state from Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Tunisia among others, was set to address China’s expanding trade ties and security concerns related to the Israel-Hamas war.


Rafah battles intensify as Israel takes over Gaza-Egypt border strip

Rafah battles intensify as Israel takes over Gaza-Egypt border strip
Updated 44 min 40 sec ago
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Rafah battles intensify as Israel takes over Gaza-Egypt border strip

Rafah battles intensify as Israel takes over Gaza-Egypt border strip
  • The Israeli military launched its incursion into Rafah in early May despite international objections over the fate of Palestinian civilians sheltering there

RAFAH: Rafah residents reported intense artillery shelling and gunfire Thursday in Gaza’s far-southern city after Israel said it had seized a strategic corridor on the Palestinian territory’s border with Egypt.
The Israeli military launched its incursion into Rafah in early May despite international objections over the fate of Palestinian civilians sheltering there.
A strike over the weekend that started a fire and killed dozens in a displacement camp drew a wave of fresh condemnation, including a social media campaign with the slogan “All eyes on Rafah” that has been shared by tens of millions of users.
Military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari announced Israel had taken “operational control” of the narrow border area, where he said troops had “discovered around 20 tunnels.”
Egypt, a longtime mediator in the conflict which has become increasingly vocal in its criticism of the Israeli operation, has rejected claims of smuggling tunnels running beneath the buffer zone.
“Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” a high-level Egyptian source was quoted as saying by state-linked Al-Qahera News.
Egyptian officials have said a potential Israeli takeover of Philadelphi could violate the two countries’ landmark 1979 peace deal, though there has been no official comment from Cairo since the military’s announcement.
On a visit in Beijing, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called for increased humanitarian assistance to besieged Gaza, and reiterated his country’s longstanding opposition to “any attempt at forcing Palestinians to forcibly flee their land.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, meanwhile, called on Thursday for a “broad-based, authoritative and effective international peace conference” to address the war, as he hosted Arab leaders including El-Sisi.
On the ground in the Gaza Strip, witnesses reported fighting in central and western Rafah.
Witnesses also said Israeli forces had demolished several buildings in the city’s eastern areas where the Israeli incursion began on May 7, initially focusing on the vital Rafah border crossing, a key entry point for humanitarian aid.


An AFP correspondent reported artillery and gunfire in Gaza City’s southern neighborhood of Zeitun, in the territory’s north, where witnesses saw thick plumes of smoke rising over Jabalia refugee camp and Beit Lahia.
A steady stream of civilians have fled Rafah, transporting their belongings on their shoulders, in cars or on donkey-drawn carts.
Before the Rafah offensive began, the United Nations said up to 1.4 million people were sheltering there. Since then, one million have fled the area, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported late Wednesday that two of its paramedics “were killed as a result of the Israeli occupation’s direct bombing” of an ambulance near Rafah.
The weekend Israeli strike and ensuing fire which tore through the camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, killed 45 people, according to Gaza officials and has prompted two days of discussions at the UN Security Council.
Israel has said it targeted a Hamas compound and killed two senior members.
In the wake of the strike, Algeria presented a draft UN resolution that “demands an immediate ceasefire respected by all parties” and the release of all hostages, but it was not clear when it would be put to a vote.
In a phone call with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, France’s Emmanuel Macron said Paris was “determined to work with Algeria” to ensure the council “makes a strong statement on Rafah.”
He also called on Abbas to “implement necessary reforms,” offering the “prospect of recognition of the state of Palestine.”
Decisions by Spain, Norway and Ireland to formally recognize the State of Palestine this week have sparked a debate over the issue, and Macron said it should take place at a “useful moment.”
Israel’s has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza since October 7, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said the war could go on until the year’s end.
“We may have another seven months of fighting to consolidate our success and achieve what we have defined as the destruction of Hamas’s power and military capabilities,” Hanegbi said.
The United States has been among the countries urging Israel to refrain from a full-scale Rafah offensive because of the risk to civilians.
However, the White House said Tuesday that so far it had not seen Israel cross President Joe Biden’s “red lines.”
The New York Times and CNN, citing weapons experts and analysis of video from the scene of the weekend Rafah strike, reported that the bomb believed to have started the fatal fire was a US-made GBU-39 guided munition.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel to quickly devise a post-war strategy for Gaza, stressing: “In the absence of a plan for the day after, there won’t be a day after.”