Saudi sponsorship surprises Women’s World Cup hosts

“It’s part of a much broader strategy, across various sports, regardless of gender, which is designed to, as Saudi Arabia wants to do with everything, make it the regional center of gravity,” James M said. Dorsey, a researcher at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.

“Yes, it’s about image, but it’s about positioning the kingdom as a power,” he added.

Over the past five years, Saudi Arabia has become a key player in football, cultivating a close relationship with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and investing billions in events, programs and partnerships (as well as acquisition of a Premier League football team). FIFA, meanwhile, has sought to increase its investment in women’s football which, despite its growth, continues to receive a fraction of the financial support that underpins men’s football.

At the same time, led by its powerful Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has sought to restore its reputation as a country that could be associated with major world sporting events, and where Lionel Messi could choose to spend his holidays. , rather than a conservative monarchy that murders dissidents, according to US intelligence, and imprisons citizens for their social media activity.

“There is a clear desire from the elite, very much pushed by Mohammad bin Salman, to demand some sort of huge cultural revolution in a very short period of time,” said David B. Roberts, an expert on the region at King’s College of London. “At the same time, you have qualitative changes that no one remotely thought plausible or possible, with the relative or significant emancipation of women as independent economic actors in the kingdom.”

nytimes sport

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