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What MBS' latest sports reforms mean for soccer in Saudi Arabia

Talk of privatization of the sports sector is nothing new in the kingdom, but experts believe the changes might help the Saudi Pro League lure in more big names.
A Saudi fan holds a scarf with portraits of King Salman (L) and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on Monday announced a shakeup of Saudi Arabia’s sports industry, which included the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) — of which he is chairman — taking ownership of four of its top soccer clubs. 

The restructuring also includes the government offering several sports clubs for privatization from the fourth quarter of 2023. The changes are designed to make it easier for foreign investment to flow into Saudi Arabian soccer, to help the kingdom achieve its aims of raising its international profile for tourists and diversifying its economy away from hydrocarbons.

Dan Plumley, senior lecturer in sports finance at Sheffield Hallam University, described the move as “hugely significant."

“It was always likely to happen at some point given the Vision 2030 strategy of the country and sport playing a huge part of that,” Plumley told Al-Monitor. “It opens up the league to become a more commercially engaged project and brings the potential for outside investment into the league through commercial and broadcast partners."

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