Saudi Arabia's Sport Ministry is preparing to issue tenders in December for contracts to build sports stadiums as part of its SR10.1bn ($2.7bn) capital projects programme.
In July, the ministry invited construction companies to submit prequalification documents for the main construction contracts. The projects are slated for completion before the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
The projects are split into four principal elements. The largest of these, and the most immediate, is the construction of a new stadium to the north of Riyadh and the upgrade of five existing football stadiums. These are:
- Increasing the capacity of King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh to 92,000 seats
- Expanding the seating capacity of Riyadh’s Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium to 45,000
- Increasing the capacity of Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Stadium to 30,000 seats
- An increase in seating capacity for the Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium in Al-Khair to 45,000
- The construction of a sustainable New Riyadh Stadium in the north of Riyadh with 45,000 seats
The next main element of the ministry’s projects programme is the construction of 30 new training grounds and facilities in proximity to the stadiums that will be used for the 2027 competition.
Construction on the schemes is expected to start in July 2024 and be completed by December 2025. A total of 18 facilities will be ready in time for the 2026 AFC Women’s Cup.
Other football stadium projects are also progressing. In October, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation awarded an early works contract to the local Al-Osais Contracting for the construction of its new stadium in Dammam. It will have the capacity to accommodate 40,000 spectators.
The new stadium will be built in the Dammam Sports City area, where the facilities of the Al-Ettifaq Football and Al-Nahda Club teams are based.
Consultants have also been invited by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to bid for a contract to provide project and asset management services for the operation and upgrade of its King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on the outskirts of Jeddah. It is the home ground of football team Al-Ittihad Saudi Club, which won its ninth championship in the 2022-23 season.
In October, Saudi Arabia was effectively confirmed as the host for football’s 2034 Fifa World Cup after the only other potential bidder for the tournament withdrew from the race.
Fifa had invited member associations from the Asian Football Confederation and Oceania Football Confederation to bid for the 2034 event by the end of October.
Saudi Arabia formally announced in early October that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation will lead its bid to host the tournament. Then on 31 October, which was the deadline for submitting bids, Football Australia issued a statement saying that the country will not bid for the 2034 tournament.
Experience from previous World Cups, including the most recent in Qatar in 2022, has shown how transformative the tournament can be for a country. “There is obviously an event at a particular point in time, but we have learnt not to look at it as an event itself, because there are all these activities that happen before and beyond the event,” says Kourosh Kayvani, partner at consultancy HKA.
“It is really about a programme of change in the country.
“This includes social change, economic change, and all of these things are ultimately achieved through the process of working towards the event, delivering it and then legacy.”
Becoming the sole bidder for the 2034 World Cup is the latest milestone in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to become a leading force in the growing business of global football. Speaking at the Future Investment Forum in Riyadh in October, Fifa president Gianni Infantino described the sport as a $200bn-a-year economy.
The first clear sign of Riyadh’s football-focused strategy came in October 2021 when a consortium led by the PIF completed the full acquisition of UK football club Newcastle United from St James Holdings.
The investment group, which also includes PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media, finalised the long-awaited deal after having secured approval from the English Premier League. The deal was estimated to be worth $415m.
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