Saudi spending benefits sport, is not intended to disrupt or ‘sportswash:’ Minister

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Saudi Arabia’s massive spending on a range of different sports is intended to benefit sports, and not to disrupt industries or distract from negative aspects of the Kingdom, the country’s sports minister said in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes.

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The government also hopes to use its investments to increase participation in sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said in the interview published on Sunday.

Asked about so-called ‘sportswashing’ – or using sports to distract from controversial government policies – Prince Abdulaziz said: “I do not agree with that term because I think that if you go to different parts of the world then you bring people together.”

“Everyone should come see Saudi Arabia, see it for what it is and then make your decision. See it for yourself. If you don’t like it, fine.”

Prince Abdulaziz was also asked whether Saudi money was a disruptive influence intended to change the face of sports, to which he replied: “Not at all. It adds a lot to the sport.”

“I think if the impact of increasing the participation of sports, and the interest in that sport is growing, then why not?”

Saudi Arabia has poured huge sums of money into sports in recent years as part of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 plan.

Notable examples include the Saudi PIF-funded LIV Golf Tour, which is luring top golfers away from the PGA Tour with big paychecks; the 2021 purchase of English Premier League team Newcastle United; and most recently the signing of Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo to Riyadh’s Al Nassr.

Women’s participation in sport is also growing. The Kingdom established its first women’s football team which won its first game against Seychelles in 2022, and the first female Saudi boxer defeated her opponent at the Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury fight in Riyadh in February.

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