Exclusive Saudi Arabia’s sports scene: Kingdom has a clear strategy for growth, SRJ CEO says

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Saudi Arabia has a clear strategy for growth for different sectors including the sports scene that witnessed a significant boost over the past year, the CEO of SRJ Sports Investments company told Al Arabiya English on Wednesday.

As the Kingdom prepares to host the first-ever mega mixed martial arts (MMA) event of the year, PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions, SRJ CEO Danny Townsend said that the company has a broad canvas of sports to invest in.

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“It’s all about ambition,” Townsend said talking about the rise of the Kingdom’s sports scene.

“But then following that ambition up with conviction. And I think that’s one thing as a relatively newcomer to Saudi Arabia, I’ve only been here five months, and [from] what I’ve seen…is both those things: A clear strategy for growth [and] a clear conviction to follow that strategy up with the execution requirements to make it work.”

Townsend spoke to Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of a press event in Riyadh to launch the PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions – one of the most anticipated events that is slated for Saturday, February 24 and that talks to MMA enthusiasts within the Kingdom.

SRJ, founded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) in August 2023, is a sports investment company that aims to accelerate the growth of the sports sector in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region.

The company seeks to invest in acquiring and creating new sports events IP, commercial rights of popular and prominent sports competitions and hosting major global events in the Kingdom.

SRJ will target businesses specialized in offering unique fan engagement activities and transformative sports technology across the industry, bolstering Saudi Arabia’s position as one of the world’s leading sports and entertainment destinations.

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“You know, it’s an exciting time to be in Saudi Arabia with the ambition that we have around building a really strong and sustainable sports sector and major event sector for that matter,” Townsend said. “Our role in the industry is to invest in global sports IP and ensure that we’re bringing those sports to life.”

Townsend explained that SRJ is looking at investing in different kinds of sports, but underscored that they are going to be selective in how they do that.

“We’re not limited to one or two sports…but we’ll be selective. You know, we want to make sure we’re investing with sophistication in the way we go about our investments because at the end of the day we want to deliver returns for the Kingdom first and foremost, and we want to deliver on our role in delivering a vibrant sports economy for the Kingdom.”

PFL partnership

One of the company’s main investment agreements is with the Professional Fighters League (PFL). The agreement – signed last year – will expand PFL’s global and regional influence as well as grant SRJ a minority equity ownership stake in the PFL.

“I think any sporting experience starts with being inspired,” Townsend explained. “And what these major events are about is inspiring young Saudis to see that there is a career pathway in MMA, that even if you’re not ever going to be elite, you can get off the couch, go to a gym, learn the craft and you can look after your health and well-being. And I think that’s an important message that you get when you watch the best [of] the best in your home, your home city.”

The partnership between SRJ and PFL prompted the launch of PFL MENA which will be based in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh.

“I think the vision for what we’ve done with PFL is transferable to so many other sports. And this is the first of many,” Townsend said.

Read more:

PIF launches sports investment company to advance Saudi Arabia’s sports landscape

Arab MMA fighters can be among world’s best, says Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah al-Qahtani

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