April 2, 2024

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Commentary: Singapore and Asia Can’t Be Passive Observers as Saudi Arabia Reshapes Football

3 min read
Commentary: Singapore and Asia Can't Be Passive Observers as Saudi Arabia Reshapes Football

Spending sprees in the football industry have seen Saudi Arabia purchase star players like Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. John Duerden, a sports writer, examines the potential benefits for Singapore and Asia.

The world is awaiting what will happen next as Saudi Arabia pours enormous sums of money into its quest to dominate sports. This presents both a chance and a challenge for Singapore and the rest of Asia.

Cristiano Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and one of the greatest players in football, signed with Riyadh club Al-Nassr at the end of December 2022. The transaction is estimated to be worth more than €400 million ($437 million).

For several hundred million euros, newly crowned Saudi league champions Al-Ittihad added N’Golo Kante from Chelsea and reigning Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema from Real Madrid in June.

While Lionel Messi reportedly turned down a lucrative contract to play in Saudi Arabia, there is little doubt that more well-known athletes will travel to the capital; the only question is who they will be.

Numerous celebrities, including Romelu Lukaku, Luka Modric, Neymar, and others, reportedly received offers. Famous coaches like Jose Mourinho and Zinedine Zidane may have also been approached by Saudi Arabia but turned down the offers.

Saudi’s Football Power Grab

This new development has made even the biggest clubs in the world sit up and take notice because such stars are being offered hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The Liverpool Echo’s headline summed it up: “Liverpool may have a major issue as a result of the Saudi transfer exodus.”

Spending a lot of money on famous players is not the only way to succeed; the Chinese Super League tried that in the previous decade with very mixed results.

The long-term goal of Saudi Arabia is to join the top 10 leagues in the world. Al-Hilal, Al-Nasr, Al-Ittihad, and Al-Ahly are the four biggest clubs in the kingdom. In June, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the nation assumed control of them.

The goal is to turn these clubs into money-making businesses that, in the years to come, will be able to compete with the top European squads both on and off the field.

Reportedly, the kingdom wants to increase the Saudi Professional League’s annual revenue from 450 million riyals to 1.8 billion riyals (US$480 million) by 2030. In the same time frame, it anticipates that the League’s market value will increase from 3 billion to over 8 billion riyals.

Even though it might seem unlikely, recent golfing events demonstrate that anything is possible.

The biggest names in the sport joined the new tour, LIV Golf, which PIF founded in 2021. The golfing world was shocked on June 6 when the PGA announced it would merge with LIV Golf to create a new, unnamed international competition. This came after 18 months of essentially going to war with the established PGA Tour in the United States, a split in the sport, and numerous lawsuits.

It was a breathtaking example of how massive financial power can quickly and dramatically alter sports.

Reference: www.channelnewsasia.com

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