News Update


‘I don’t care,’ says Mohammed bin Salman of’sportswashing’ allegations.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he is unconcerned about’sportswashing’ allegations.

The Gulf country has been accused of spending in sports and staging high-profile events in order to boost its international standing.

Last year, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia led the buying of Newcastle United and the creation of LIV Golf.

“If sportswashing increases my GDP by 1%, then we will continue to do sportswashing,” Bin Salman remarked.

“I don’t care [about the term],” he told Fox News. Sport has contributed 1% to my GDP growth, and I am looking for another 1.5%.

“Whatever you want to call it, we’re going to get that 1.5%.”

Saudi Arabia has been chastised for human rights crimes, including the execution of 81 men in one day last year, as well as for infringement of women’s rights, the criminalization of homosexuality, restrictions on free speech, and the Yemen conflict.

Its international standing was significantly harmed by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist residing in the United States who was a vocal critic of the kingdom, in 2018.

Human rights activists claim that the Saudi government is using sport to divert attention away from long-standing reputation issues.

“Saudi Arabia’s acquisitions of high-profile sports businesses like Newcastle United or the PGA Tour are as much about sportswashing the country’s appalling human rights record as they are about adding one or two percentage points to national GDP,” Amnesty International UK’s Felix Jakens said.

“While huge amounts of Saudi money are currently sluicing through football and other sports, the Saudi authorities are busy cracking down on human rights behind the drama of these transactions.”

“Mohammed bin Salman’s rule has been a truly dark time for human rights in Saudi Arabia, and no amount of talk about economic visions or expansion into new sporting ventures should be allowed to distract from that fact.”

Saudi authorities, however, deny these claims, claiming that investment in sports is a major component of the ‘Vision 2030’ policy.

The country’s sovereign wealth fund is projected to be worth $620 billion (£550 billion).

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the governor of PIF, which Bin Salman controls.

Last season, the Premier League club’s green and white third shirt resembled the Saudi Arabia national team kit, and Amnesty International stated it was “clear evidence” of sportswashing at the time.

Saudi Arabia will host the Club World Cup in December, its first big Fifa event, and is anticipated to bid for the World Cup in 2030 or 2034.

Because of its attitude on same-sex couples, human rights record, and treatment of migrant workers, Qatar’s contentious hosting of the 2022 event sparked criticism.

PIF has gained ownership of four of Saudi Arabia’s premier clubs, Al-Ahli, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, and Al-Nassr, which have recently signed high-profile players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and reigning Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema.

Following the establishment of the lucrative LIV Golf series in 2022, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour agreed to unite with PIF in June after a year of turmoil, with Al-Rumayyan named chair of the new unified men’s game.

Human rights groups also criticized F1’s intention to hold its maiden race in Saudi Arabia in 2021 as part of a long-term agreement.

Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, has urged Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record before the 2022 Grand Prix, stating that he does not feel comfortable racing in the country.

World championship boxing matches have also taken place in Saudi Arabia. Anthony Joshua declared that he was “here for boxing” before losing to Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah last year, after defeating Andy Ruiz in Riyadh in 2019.

Tennis will hold a professional event in Saudi Arabia for the first time this year, following the signing of a five-year agreement for Jeddah to host the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Saudi Arabia has also discussed hosting the WTA Finals at the end of the season.


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