Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar. A few days later, at the same World Cup, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, showed up with the Saudi flag around his neck during a Saudi game. Suddenly, the rift in relations between Riyadh and Doha that had lasted since 2017 seemed to have healed.
But no. During the World Cup Saudi Arabia has blocked the broadcasts of beINSports, a subsidiary of the Qatari Al Jazeera. which was the official distributor of the contest games in the Middle East and North Africa. The amazing attitude, especially after months of apparently warm relations and guidance left by bin Salman and Al Thani, made it clear that the silent war between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would take place in a specific arena: in sports.
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Sports in general, and football in particular, represent one of the defining moments in the escalating rivalry between Saudis and Qataris. And this week, even without official confirmation, Saudi Arabia took another step in that race: according to Middle East press reports, the Saudi Public Investment Fund is preparing to acquire world wrestlingWWE, the giant and millionaire North American organization that leads the world struggle for decades.
The deal could be worth $6.5 billion and is a clear continuation of a relationship that began in 2018. In the same year, WWE signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia, which provided for the holding of two premium events in the country per year for an exchange of $ 50 million. for each of the shows. Now, considering that the contract runs until 2028 and that two annual events will even take place, the Saudis are becoming the most financially fit for WWE – with revenues reaching billions per decade, the amount is hugely higher than the 15 million a year that the organization manages to earn with WrestleMania, the modality’s main attraction.
If confirmed, WWE will be the latest sports investment in an already long list held by this Saudi Arabian public investment fund. Not to mention signing a contract with Cristiano Ronaldo. — which, although done by Al-Nasr, is a clear marketing ploy integrated into the Saudi regime’s Vision 2030 — the country has moved to the forefront of international football with the recent acquisition of Newcastle.
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Saudi Arabia and Newcastle, tennis and Formula 1
After more than a year of successes and failures, as the Premier League raised several obstacles to the deal and guaranteed that it would only resolve it with guarantees of the State Investment Fund’s complete independence from the regime, Saudi Arabia even completed the purchase of Newcastle for more than $400 million in September 2021. In addition to acquiring the currently No. 3 Premier League club, the Saudis have invested more than two billion in commercial partnerships with football clubs.
Then golf. In 2021, capitalizing on the growing dissatisfaction of some golfers with the main PGA Tour modality scheme, Saudi Arabia funded the creation of a parallel scheme, LIV Golf. OUR prize money the total amount of each event is 25 million dollars, each winner brings four million, more than any winning prize in the PGA’s most lucrative tournaments. LIV Golf convinced some famous golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson and the PGA Tour immediately announced that all athletes participating in the new scheme would be automatically eliminated.
Formula 1 has also become an attractive market for Saudi Arabia in 2022. the same State Investment Fund became the second largest shareholder in the team owned by Aston Martin, as he already owned Aramco, the main sponsor. Earlier, in 2021, the Saudis have already invested in McLaren. The icing on the cake was the hosting of the unprecedented Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, with plans to host the race in Saudi Arabia within the next 15 years.
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At the same time, Saudi Arabia will organize and host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, 2034 Asian Games, and will submit a proposal together with Egypt and Greece to become one of the host countries of the 2030 FIFA World Cup. – in a candidacy where the participation of Cristiano Ronaldo continues to be questioned. There is a $38 billion project to make the country “center in games around the world with companies games global scale”, and already in 2019, the Saudis paid more than 40 million for a boxing match between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.
Qatar and PSG, Sp. Braga and the 2022 World Cup
Qatar’s interest in sports, by the way, began earlier. In 2011, more than a decade ago, through Qatar Sports Investments, the country took control of PSG, making it clearly the richest club in France and naturally one of the richest in the world. The arrival of Qatari money brought Matuidi, Sirigu, Maxwell, Kevin Gameiro and Javier Pastore right into the first window of the market, adding shortly thereafter Ibrahimovic, Cavani, David Luiz and even an almost reformed David Beckham, not to mention the signing of millionaire Neymar from Barcelona and a brutal contract extension with Mbappe.
The acquisition of PSG by Qatar Sports Investments has appointed Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chairman of the company, as president of the club, but not only. The Qatari businessman has become an important and relevant figure behind the scenes of European and even world football. taking over leadership roles within UEFA and the European Club Association and creating a clear sphere of influence making him one of the strongest men in the sport.
Playing sports, Al-Khelaifi also approached the world of tennis and became not only the president of the Qatar Tennis Federation, but also the vice-president of the Asian Tennis Federation. Apart from PSG, Qatar Sports Investments also owns Burrda Sport, a sportswear brand, and together with the International Federation of this sport, funded the creation of a world track for paddle tennis. Finally, already in October 2022, Qatar became part of Portugal and acquired 21.6% of Sp. Braga.
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“Qatar Sports Investments is proud to invest in the world’s leading sports companies and help them reach their full potential. Portugal is a club where football has a solid foundation – some of the most passionate fans and one of the best talent production systems in the world. Sp. Braga is an exemplary Portuguese club with a rich history, great ambitions and a great reputation both on and off the pitch. As investors and partners, we look forward to the innovation, growth and development of the club – the men’s and women’s teams, the commercial and brand sectors, and all the communities and businesses it supports.” – Helaifi
Finally, and if Saudi Arabia is still looking for the final entry into the world of football with the race for the 2030 World Cup, Qatar reached that level in 2022. The country organized and hosted the last World Cup, and even the fact that it was probably the most contested of all time didn’t stop the ball. Thousands of migrants have died building stadiums, respect for human rights is far from limited, and Doha is still an unfriendly place for the LGBT community. However, Qatar hosted the World Cup.
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