Saudi royal sees sport fund at more than $600m

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

RIYADH: Saudi Ara­bia plans to develop its sports sec­tor with a fund worth more than $600 mil­lion helped by the pri­vati­sa­tion of foot­ball teams, a senior of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day. “The fund will be no less than 2.5 bil­lion riyals ($666 mil­lion),” Princess Reema Bint Ban­dar al-Saud told the MISK Global Fo­rum. On Mon­day the king­dom’s main eco­nomic co­or­di­nat­ing body, the Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Af­fairs and Devel­op­ment, called for creation of the fund within three months.

It aims to “sup­port dif­fer­ent sports, devel­op­ment and in­vest­ment in the rel­e­vant ar­eas,” while con­tribut­ing to pri­vati­sa­tion of sports clubs and the es­tab­lish­ment and funding of am­a­teur sports pro­grammes, the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency said.

Most pro­fes­sional foot­ball clubs in Saudi Ara­bia are re­port­edly govern­ment owned. Saud, named three months ago as Vice Pres­i­dent for Women’s Af­fairs at the Gen­eral Author­ity for Sports, said pri­vati­sa­tion of foot­ball would pro­vide “the seed cap­i­tal of our fu­ture”.

Her agency is try­ing to boost the king­dom’s in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness and to get more Saudis ex­er­cis­ing. She said her own fo­cus is on pro­mot­ing healthy life­styles, which would also have eco­nomic ben­e­fits in the con­ser­va­tive king­dom where sport op­por­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly for women, are lim­ited.

“To­day, the value of sports as a sec­tor could equal, un­be­liev­ably, 250,000 jobs for women over the next two years,” she told the fo­rum which linked busi­ness lead­ers with young Saudis in a bid to in­spire them to help di­ver­sify the oil-de­pen­dent econ­omy.

She said she wants to en­cour­age young peo­ple to walk more and to ride bi­cy­cles, but in the Saudi cap­i­tal there are only about two shops sell­ing bikes for se­ri­ous adult rid­ers.

Saud urged young en­trepreneurs to take ad­van­tage of such mar­ket po­ten­tial.

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