JEDDAH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation’s board of directors held its sixth meeting recently in Riyadh, under the patronage of Prince Saud bin Mishal, during which members discussed important topics including events and tournaments, the organization’s accomplishments, its financial and human resources policies, committee reports, investment opportunities, and key development areas.
The board said the federation has taken significant strides recently in its efforts to develop cricket, which has had an obvious effect on the sport not only in the Kingdom but globally, helping to put the country on the cricketing map and attract more Saudi fans and players.
According to the federation, one of its key initiatives has been the hosting of several regional cricket tournaments across the country, hard-ball and soft-ball games, which have been instrumental in attracting talented players from all parts of the Kingdom. The tournaments provide opportunities for local fans to watch games together, it said, and the matches were often well-attended by passionate fans who created a vibrant atmosphere.
The federation said it had identified the most promising players among those that participated in the tournaments and provided them with additional training and coaching. This has resulted in the development of a pool of talented cricketers, many of whom have gone on to represent Saudi Arabia at international competitions. The Saudi national cricket team’s victory this year at the inaugural ACC Men’s Challenger Cup in Bangkok is a testament to the effectiveness of the initiative, the board added.
The federation said it is also building relationships and partnerships with key international cricketing figures and organizations, including star players such as Pakistan’s Wasim Akram and South Africa’s Kevin Pietersen, as well as Nadeem Omar, the team owner of Pakistan Super League side Quetta Gladiators. It added that it continues to seek out partners who can add value to Saudi cricket.
Closer to home, the federation has formed a partnership with NEOM, the smart city development in northwestern Saudi Arabia, which has announced its first cricket program in partnership with Indian Premier League giants Rajasthan Royals and their owner, Manoj Badale.
The aim of the program is to promote and encourage an active and healthy lifestyle among the workforce in NEOM, which is forecast to reach 60,000 people by the end of this year. It will do this by developing cricket facilities and offering training and coaching to the local population, with the ultimate goal of developing a local pool of talent that can one day represent Saudi Arabia in international tournaments.
The federation said the work it is doing to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia has had significant benefits to the wider community, including increased activity levels and community involvement, as well as giving people a chance to enjoy the game together and support regional teams.
The Kingdom is now represented in the global cricketing arena in several ways, the federation said. In February last year, for example, the Saudi Tourism Authority announced a collaboration with the Indian Premier League, the world’s most lucrative franchise-based cricket league, with a brand value of more than $6 billion.
This following Aramco’s partnership with the International Cricket Council, the sport’s global governing body, which includes a sponsorship agreement that runs until the end of this year.
Agreements such as these demonstrate the significant role of cricket in the country and how seriously it is viewed by authorities, the federation said.
Cricket is considered one of the most lucrative sports in the world, and Saudi authorities recognize its potential and are working with the federation to develop it.
The Kingdom made headlines around the world in April, for example, when the federation teased the possibility of a franchise-based Saudi cricket league, which the Guardian described as “(potentially) the world’s most lucrative Twenty20 tournament.”
A T20 league would likely provide a significant boost to the Kingdom’s economy, generating revenue through ticket sales, sponsorship deals, broadcasting rights, and increased tourism. The strategic location of the country could also help attract international players and fans to the league. Positioned between Europe and Asia, Saudi Arabia offers easy access for the peoples of both continents.
Whatever the future might hold, there appears little doubt that Saudi Arabia is increasingly becoming a major stakeholder in the cricketing world.