Mohammed bin Salman 'doesn't care' about accussations of sportswashing
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reiterated his contempt for people who accuse him and the Saudi Public Investment Fund of using sport to improve the country's image.
The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) purchased an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle in 2021 and in the past year has attracted a host of big names, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Jordan Henderson to its Pro League.
The contentious Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, merged with the PGA and DP World Tours in June, while Formula One, boxing, snooker and horse racing are all heavily associated with the Gulf kingdom.
Critics of the Saudi regime say the country is expanding its sports portfolio to hide behind its long history of human rights abuses.
However, in an interview with Fox News, a defiant Bin Salman said: “If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by way of one per cent, then I will continue doing sportwashing.
“I don’t care. One per cent growth of GDP from sport and I’m aiming for another one-and-a-half per cent. Call it whatever you want, we’re going to get that one-and-a-half per cent.”
Saudi Arabia sees sport as a crucial part of its ‘Vision 2030’ strategy. The country is investing heavily in many sectors as it seeks to diversify its economy away from its finite oil reserves, with sport being one of them.
There have been reports of a Saudi bid for the World Cup and even of hosting an Olympic Games.