The emergence of football in Saudi Arabia has coincidentally skyrocketed in growth alongside the recent expansion in the country’s aviation footprint.
In this piece, we will take a brief look at how the country is trying to diversify its offerings to tourism and how both football and aviation will play a role in that.
Without further ado, let’s get into it…
First, Ronaldo, Potentially Messi in Saudi Arabia?
One way in which Saudi Arabia is trying to bring additional tourism and economic value is through football.
Earlier this year, one of the country’s clubs, Al Nassr, signed Cristiano Ronaldo on a two-year deal worth a staggering 200 million EUR per year.
Then, just this week, it was reported that Al Hilal have placed an offer for Lionel Messi in a deal valued at over £350m.
Already, Saudi Arabia has one of the greatest players in football history playing in the country, but to have two of the greatest players would add a further boost to local and also nationwide economic value.
Acquiring both players into the country at the same time would bring the global football scene closer to Saudi Arabia, which could attract other world-class players into the region as well.
This has come with significant criticism by local pundits around the world, with the most notable being from Simon Jordan at talkSPORT, which you can see below:
The Country’s Recent Investment in Aviation…
If Saudi Arabia can diversify into other economic markets like football, then it needs the infrastructure to cope with this.
Arguably, and this could be open to interpretation, this would be why the Public Investment Fund (PIF) was expanded, especially on the travel side.
Last month saw the PIF unveil a brand new airline, dubbed Riyadh Air.
As it’s in the name, this airline’s main base of operations will be from Riyadh itself, with this expected to create more than 200,000 direct & indirect jobs.
Riyadh Air is also expected to add $20bn to non-oil GDP growth as well, which is something Middle Eastern states have been looking at pursuing.
By 2030, the carrier is expected to operate over 100 destinations around the world 2030, bringing together further connectivity within Saudi Arabia.
Following that announcement came the infrastructure expansion within that.
Riyadh Air purchased 39 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with options for an additional 33 units, with the already established SAUDIA ordering 39 Dreamliners, with an option for 10 more as well.
Diversification in the Interest of Global Attraction?
It remains clear that Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia are now focusing on diversification in the interest of global attraction.
This ultimately comes down to the level of dominance that the United Arab Emirates has had over the years through its bespoke hub and connection model out of Dubai.
Qatar Airways has tried to emulate the same formula, especially with the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in Doha last year.
Under the PIF specifically, as well, the Saudi Arabian government is looking at expanding into the following fields for further growth:
- International Diversified Pool.
- International Strategic Investments.
- Saudi Giga-Projects.
- Saudi Real Estate & Infrastructure Development.
- Saudi Sector Development.
- Saudi Equity Holdings.
With football growing in the country, this would subsequently fuel the growth of Saudi Sector Development.
This is also why the country is about to get more international flights as well, especially through the recent Summer expansion by SAUDIA.
As for the aircraft orders and the formation of a new airline, this would mold the infrastructure development side of things, which will be needed to accommodate the large expansions being made.
As has been mentioned over the last few weeks, it is full steam ahead for Saudi Arabia, as it aims to move away from oil-based growth to non-oil-based growth.
Football will play a major factor in this, especially with the size of the global industry expected to reach $3,712.7 million by 2027.
It is clear that the country is wanting to delve further into this particular global market, so they will need the aviation infrastructure to cope with that.
Therefore, there is most definitely an aviation link to this all.