The value of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sports event industry is growing by 8% per year, rising from US$2.1 billion in 2018 to an estimated US$3.3 billion by 2024, according to an EY report on the Sports Event Opportunity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 2021, despite international travel restrictions, Saudi Arabia played host to the Saudi International Golf Tournament, the Diriyah E-Prix, the Saudi Cup, the Global Series Extreme E race, and the WWE Crown Jewel event. The Saudi Arabia Grand Prix also took place for the first time last year, with the inaugural edition of the race being held in Jeddah.
In recognition of sports’ significant potential as a catalyst for economic development, the Saudi Government has announced significant investment commitments of US$2 billion in sports by 2024, US$670 million to support private sector sports clubs and US$320 million investment for private sector clubs sponsorships until 2023.
Ahmed Reda, EY MENA Technology, Media and Entertainment, and Telecommunications Leader, said:
“One of the goals of Vision 2030 is the creation of professional sports and a sports industry that will generate employment for Saudis as well as enhance citizens’ quality of life. Saudi Arabia is ambitiously expanding the line-up of sporting events it is hosting — from major international events, elite sports, regular national competitions, and numerous smaller and mass participation events. This is an industry sector that is bristling with opportunity for social and economic growth and that offers enormous scope for inward investment.”
Saudi Vision 2030 and the role of the sports industry
Strategic investments in sports reflect the prominent role that they will play in achieving the objectives laid out in Saudi Vision 2030: To create a vibrant society by promoting a healthy lifestyle and well-being — both physically and socially. The Quality-of-Life Program was launched in May 2018 to deliver on this objective and encourage mass participation.
Developing sports has also been shown to offer substantial economic development potential. Sports’ contribution to the Saudi Arabia GDP has already grown from US$2.4 billion in 2016 to US$6.9 billion in 2019.
Within a relatively short period, Saudi Arabia has leapt to the forefront as a new breeding ground for a flourishing sports events ecosystem by playing host to some of the biggest sporting events globally. The number of international events in Saudi Arabia doubled from nine in 2018 to 19 in 2019, including the WWE Super Showdown, the Saudi Pro-Golf Championship, Battle of the Champions, the International Handball Federation Super Globe, and the Saudi International Meeting for Disabilities Sport.
Laurent Viviez, EY MENA Sports Practice Leader, concluded:
“Hosting sporting events will generate substantial benefits for Saudi Arabia and will deliver a direct economic impact from spectator revenues like ticketing, food and beverages, accommodation, athlete spend and sponsorships. With an estimated market value of $3.3 billion by 2024, there is ample opportunity for both the global and local private sectors to play an important role in growing the industry. The Saudi private sector can add enormous value as sports event organizers, sports infrastructure providers and sports marketing agencies or event managers.”
The development of the sports industry in Saudi Arabia will also help to promote the country as a prime tourist destination and offer attractive employment opportunities, in competitive sport as well as in the business of sport. Over two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s population is under the age of 35 with a growing appetite for sport, driving both event participation and attendance.