April 24 – Saudi Arabia is to suspend funding to sports and football clubs in an attempt to curb budget deficits amid the global coronavirus crisis, the country’s finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan has announced.
The decision comes as the Arab kingdom braces for a contraction of the domestic economy. Saudi Arabia has reduced oil production, but also expects its private sector to shrink as a result of the global health crisis. Saudi Arabia has 13,930 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 121 people have died in the country after contracting the disease, according to the latest data of the Johns Hopkins University.
To limit the financial fallout, the kingdom is introducing austerity measures that will also heavily affect its football clubs.
Saudi newspaper Al Watan reports that the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF), leagues and clubs stand to lose 300 million riyals (€74 million) in TV rights income. There are eight rounds left of play in the Saudi topflight this season. The Saudi ministry of sports also pays clubs a fee of one million riyals (€247,336) when attendance at matches exceeds 10,000 fans.
The policy marks a u-turn for the finances of Saudi football. In 2018, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman helped domestic football by covering debts owed by the clubs – the bulk of which were unpaid player wages with multiple claims having been made to FIFA. Through the General Sports Authority and SAFF, he injected 1,277,000,000 riyals (€315 million) into the game and cleared those debts..
The news is in stark contrast with the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United, where there is a growing public feeling that the Saudi money is not so welcome. Controversy continues to rage the deal, with Amnesty International warning the Premier League that it “risks becoming a patsy” and rights holder BeIN Sports flagging up Saudi Arabia’s TV rights theft that has damaged the global market for sports.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1591038214labto1591038214ofdlr1591038214owedi1591038214sni@o1591038214fni1591038214