Rewind 12 months and the sporting world was wringing its hands at the prospect of a FIFA World Cup being held in Qatar in December. At that time, few people could have anticipated that the Saudi Pro League would be attracting the biggest names in world football – from Ronaldo to Neymar.
And it’s not just football that is making back-page headlines. The LIV Golf series caused a stir and a breakaway from the traditional powerhouses of the European Tour and PGA, before a deal was struck that suits all parties.
It would be easy to suggest that this sudden spotlight is down to hard cash, but there are other factors at play – as outlined by PwC’s Global Sports Survey 2023 that says strong economic growth, digital native populations and innovation are all driving posting change in the region.
Sport has long been a vehicle for nations in the Middle East to showcase themselves to a global audience – just looks at golf’s Dubai Desert Classic and horse racing’s Dubai World Cup. The UAE also hosts the Formula One season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Qatar hosting the World Cup was a huge sporting success despite numerous concerns.
The World Economic Forum says the region's sports industry is expected to grow by 8.7% by 2026 – compared with global sector growth of 3.3%.
PwC’s survey highlights key reasons why the Middle East is top of the league.
The Middle East’s sovereign wealth funds and government-backed investment groups are leading global sporting spend as they look to diversify their economies and raise their profile.
In Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) has taken ownership of four Saudi Pro League teams and is behind much of the investment bringing top-name players to the country. PIF also has a majority stake in England’s Newcastle United.
ADQ – Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund – owns Etihad Airways, main sponsor of European Champions Manchester City. And Paris Saint-Germain is owned by Qatar Sports Investments – a subsidiary of Qatar Investment Authority.
Spotlight on women’s Sports
The region's women's sports market is expanding quickly and acting as a driver for growth. Arab women athletes are breaking new ground across all sports – and 75% of survey respondents globally expect revenue in women’s sport to increase by more than 15% a year over the next three to five years.
Empowering women via sport one of the goals of Saudi’s Vision 2030 programme, while Dubai Sports Council’s Women’s Sports Committee has been actively promoting participation since 2006.
The survey also paints a bright future for further growth thanks to the region’s young demographic of passionate fans who are also digital natives – and ideal consumers for sports marketing.
PwC's Global Sports Survey has been produced since 2016, with this edition seeking the opinions of more than 500 sports leaders worldwide from 43 countries.
Read the full report.
You may also be interested in the Business Chief EMEA website.
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