Sportswashing: how Saudi Arabia lobbies the US's largest sports bodies – AuthenticAfrican

Posted on by Karim Zidan

Saudi Arabia’s relatively sudden interest in sports can be construed as a soft power tactic to help distract from the kingdom’s ongoing human rights abuses and the Yemen crisis

Last month, the foreign registration documentation for Saudi Arabia’s 2018 lobbying campaign in the United States were made available online. The documents shed light on the kingdom’s aggressive sportswashing strategy that included meetings and business calls with the commissioners for Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), as well as officials from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and the Los Angeles Olympic Committee.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic interest in sports and entertainment events dates back to November 2016 when crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the kingdom’s General Sports Authority – the government body responsible for the development of sports in the kingdom – to set up a Sports Development Fund that bolstered sports activity in the country. The objectives of the fund were to privatize football clubs to increase participation, promote new sports events, and add 40,000 jobs to the economic marketplace as part of Vision 2030, a development proposal that laid out a modern, technocratic future for Saudi Arabia in which the country would be free of its heavy dependence on oil.

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