11 August 2014
Efforts to professionalize soccer in the Saudi Arabia in advance of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are marred by efforts to maintain political control of the game, a lack of transparency and accountability, and disputes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Prominent Saudi businessmen and soccer officials grumbled over the awarding earlier this month by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) of soccer broadcast rights to Middle East Broadcasting Center Group (MBC) for a period of 10 years in a deal worth 3.6 billion Saudi riyals or $960 million. The deal with MBC, which is chaired by Sheikh Waleed Bin Ibrahim Al Brahim, an in-law of Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud family, was rushed through in an effort to pre-empt a possible bid by beIN Sports, the sports channel of the Qatari state-owned Al Jazeera network. MBC’s flagship, Al Arabiya, was founded as a counterweight to Al Jazeera.
Saudi Arabia alongside the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew its ambassador from Doha earlier this year in protest against Qatari support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group whose government was last year overthrown by a military coup in Egypt and which has since been banned as a terrorist organization in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Egypt this week banned the group’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
… James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 13/08/2014