Sports economist explains
Saudis are pursuing a clear goal with Ronaldo
Saudi Arabia butters billions of Swiss francs into sport and is well on the way to becoming a great power. The currently much-discussed transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo is just a small cog in the big system, as sports economist Simon Chadwick says.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Saudi Arabia is making headlines.
Nicholas HorniRingier journalism student
Cristiano Ronaldo has been under contract with the Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr since the end of 2022. Although he hasn’t played a game yet, he is soon to join the Saudi league operations – and support the way to global sports power there. Ronaldo is expected to pocket more than 200 million euros for it.
Wasted money in a league for stars that hardly anyone cares about? False according to Simon Chadwick, British sports economist and professor of sport and geopolitics. Ronaldo will probably attract new, solvent sponsors, increase the value of television contracts and make money with jersey sales. But the long-term plan is much more important. Because natural resources and thus the main source of income for the Saudi state will run out in the next 20 to 30 years, the economic future on the Arabian Peninsula is already being planned – above all with the help of sport: “Saudi Arabia is already planning for the long term and is investing in many economic sectors . One of them is sports. And this should, when gas and oil become scarce, flush money back into the coffers of the kingdom.”
Saudi Arabia wants to go where Brazil is
One accepts that a lot of money is spent on this. According to Chadwick, football in the Middle East is treated differently than in Europe anyway. “Investments in football cannot be compared to those in Europe. It should be more of a football that benefits the whole nation. They also don’t live in such a way that every franc invested has to come out twice.”
According to Chadwick, the aim of the desert state is to make football more popular in the future – and also that the world can overlook the human rights violations in the kingdom. Similar to what has happened in Brazil in recent years. According to Chadwick, while ex-president Jair Bolsonaro was clearing the Amazon, the sports world only thought of sun, beach and playful but powerful kickers.