Saudi royal sees sport fund at more than $600m
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.