Saudi Arabia invites global investors to partner in rapidly increasing sports economy

Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030.— Supplied photo
Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030.— Supplied photo

Jeddah - ‘NAFES’ launched to encourage investment and ownership in sports clubs, academies and centres

By Team KT

Published: Mon 21 Jun 2021, 5:28 PM

For the first time, Saudi Arabia is inviting investors from around the world to take full ownership of clubs, academies and centres across 27 of its most popular sports.

The country’s Ministry of Sport has launched ‘NAFES’, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration with one of the world’s most dynamic and rapidly growing sports markets.

NAFES aims to attract private investment to help increase the number of clubs, academies and centres across sport, the competition of athletes and the impact on the overall economy.

The Saudi Arabian sports economy has grown 174% in the last three years alone and its contribution to GDP has increased by 22%. This trend is expected to continue thanks to the country’s sporting ambitions and young sports mad population.

Saudi Arabian sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said: “We are inviting the world to partner with us on our journey of sporting transformation. Our country’s incredible passion for sport is well known and, as more get active and take up sport, the economic opportunity is exciting. Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030, and we would not have achieved these massive strides if it were not for the unconditional support by our Kingdom’s leadership led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.”

Prince Abdulaziz added: “NAFES is our invitation to overseas partners to drive our sporting investment to the next level and to collaborate across our sports clubs, academies and centres. It is a turning point for the Kingdom’s sports sector. Our message to investors and the private sector both in Saudi Arabia and across the globe is direct and clear – establish your clubs, compete and draw the future path of Saudi sports investment.”

The launch of NAFES falls under Saudi Arabia’s ‘Quality of Life’ sports programme which is part of the country’s Vision 2030 ambitions to diversify its economy and create a more vibrant society. It has driven record levels of sports participation, provided increased access, facilities and governance, as well as launching inspirational partnerships with some of the world’s biggest sports events and governing bodies.

The investments have resulted in a 37% growth in Saudis participating in weekly sport between 2015 and 2019, alongside a 149% increase in women and girls exercising during the same time period. During the coronavirus pandemic, over 4 million enjoyed at home fitness classes as part of the ‘Baytak Nadeek’ initiative.

As well as the investment in grass roots facilities and opportunities, Saudi Arabia has become a hub of global sport, hosting around 50 international events in the last three years. The schedule includes international football, PGA European Tour golf, WWE, tennis and boxing. The country’s motorsport calendar features Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and from December, the first ever Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The Ministry of Sport is focused on building a strong investment ecosystem through developing club funding strategies and implementing best governance practices, enhancing facilities and developing regulations to increase investor confidence.

Historically, the Saudi sports industry was wholly reliant on government funds and support to operate. As the private sectors steps in following this policy change, the Saudi government aims to accelerate the growth of the Saudi sports industry by giving the private industry the role needed to allow the sporting industry to mature and increase the volume of sports facilities, clubs and coaches.

NAFES aims to raise the percentage share of the sports industry’s contribution towards the Kingdom’s GDP, in addition to increasing and diversifying local and foreign investment opportunities, and ultimately raising the number of competitive clubs across a wide range of sports.

“This was an organic development that falls in line with our efforts to position Saudi at the forefront of the sporting world globally and that is a crucial part in Saudi Vision 2030,” continued His Royal Highness. “As our sporting ambitions continue, we seek to collaborate with partners and strike a healthy balance between public and private sector investment.”

Investors are urged to visit for more information on all the required steps to apply for their license.

The sports being offered for ownership via NAFES include football, basketball, swimming, equestrian, tennis, electronic sports, gymnastics, cycling and combat sports.

More news from Global Sports