Sportswashing has been one of the more ubiquitous terms in the industry over the past few years as foreign nations invest billions of dollars in professional teams and leagues in the U.S. and Europe.
One of the most criticized countries is Saudi Arabia, whose $700 billion Public Investment Fund has backed the launch of LIV Golf, the purchase of Premier League club Newcastle United, investments in Formula 1, and the Saudi Pro League — the latter of which has brought unprecedented disruption to European soccer.
Saudi Arabia has even launched a sports-specific investment company that recently purchased a stake in the MMA upstart Professional Fighters League.
As the focus of sports continues, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he isn’t bothered by sportswashing claims.
“If sportswashing [is] going to increase my GDP by 1%, then I will continue doing sportswashing,” he told Fox News on Bret Baier’s “Special Report” show. “I don’t care. I have 1% growth of GDP from sport, and I’m aiming for another 1.5% — call it whatever you want, we’re going to get that 1.5%.”
Various databases calculated Saudi Arabia’s GDP at more than $1 trillion by the end of 2022. While it isn’t clear exactly what metrics bin Salman was referring to, his claim would mean sports investments have boosted Saudi Arabia’s GDP by $10 billion.