top of page
  • Writer's pictureomsac actualités

Saudi Arabia and Sport: Hypocrisy and European Criticism

Saudi Arabia, a nation known for its passion for football, is increasingly in the spotlight due to its massive investments in the sport, particularly in Europe. If these investments are warmly welcomed by European clubs, they are the subject of virulent criticism from certain European media. This situation raises questions about the hypocrisy surrounding how Europe views sports investment from the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia and Sport: A Controversial Marriage

Saudi Arabia has taken the sports world by storm in recent years, investing billions of dollars in prestigious football clubs, transfers of global stars, and even hosting major sporting events. However, this move has not been well received by some European media, who accuse the Saudi kingdom of seeking to improve its image through so-called "sportwashing".

Sportwashing: A New Weapon of Diplomacy

Sportwashing is the practice of using sport as a public relations tool to improve a country's reputation on the international stage. While this tactic may seem effective, it raises moral and ethical questions, particularly when countries accused of human rights abuses attempt to improve their image through sport.

European Reactions: Selective Criticism?

European criticism of Saudi Arabia's sports investments raises questions about the selectivity of these reactions. Indeed, when European clubs receive billions of dollars from Gulf countries, the European media generally applaud these financial agreements. However, as soon as Saudi Arabia decides to implement its own vision of sport, criticism abounds.

Spotlight on Human Rights

Saudi Arabia is regularly criticized for its human rights record, particularly regarding the rights of women and minorities. These concerns have been raised in the context of the FIFA Club World Cup which is due to be held in Saudi Arabia in December 2023. Massive investments in sport are therefore accompanied by careful examination of the situation of human rights in the country.

A Look at Hypocrisy:

It is undeniable that Saudi Arabia has used sport to improve its international image and reputation. However, it is also important to ask whether Europe applies the same standards when receiving sports funding from the Gulf. The apparent hypocrisy in the European response raises questions about the true nature of these critiques and how they are influenced by political and economic interests.

A Summer of Sporting Tensions:

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has been the scene of several major sporting events, including the takeover of English football club Newcastle United and the hosting of the FIFA Club World Cup in December 2023. These ambitious initiatives aim to propel the Saudi kingdom onto the international sporting scene and stimulate the development of sport in the country.

However, these projects have not been favorably received by certain European media and players in the sporting world. The criticism mainly focuses on human rights and civil liberties in Saudi Arabia, as well as the real motivations behind these massive investments.

European Hypocrisy or Economic Realism?

Are the European media right to denounce Saudi Arabia's sports investments, or is this a manifestation of selective hypocrisy? Some experts believe that European criticism could be influenced by political and economic considerations.

Europe has always been an attractive market for Gulf football clubs, attracting high-profile players and benefiting from billions of euros in investment. Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, have become key players in the world of European football, both on the field and financially.

A Possible Path: Transparency and Accountability:

The question of foreign sports investments does not seem to be going away any time soon. Yet instead of simply criticizing, Europe could seek to establish standards of transparency and accountability for all foreign investors in European sport.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, has said it wants to use sport as a way to diversify its economy and improve leisure opportunities for its population. The challenge lies in how these goals can be achieved while respecting human rights and ensuring financial transparency.


Saudi Arabia and European sport will remain a subject of lively debate. The Saudi kingdom's massive investments in sport are sure to provoke diverse reactions. It is essential to continue to examine these developments with a critical eye, while avoiding hypocrisy in the treatment of foreign sports investments.

Sport, as a global platform, offers many opportunities, but it must also be used responsibly and ethically to ensure that the values ​​of sport and human rights are respected.

Sports Promotion in Saudi Arabia: A Step Forward

Amidst this heated debate, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia is committed to promoting sport among its population and playing an active role on the global sporting stage. Initiatives such as the purchase of Newcastle United and the hosting of marquee sporting events show the Saudi kingdom's determination to invest in sport on a large scale.

It is also worth mentioning that the World Anti-Corruption Security Organization (OMSAC) closely follows developments in the field of sports and proactively monitors activities related to transparency and integrity in this sector. As an international organization committed to promoting good governance and the fight against corruption, OMSAC welcomes efforts to ensure that investments in sports benefit both Saudi citizens and the global sports community .

Sport has the power to unite nations, foster social inclusion and create economic opportunities. Saudi Arabia recognizes the importance of these elements and seeks to integrate them into its Vision 2030, an initiative aimed at modernizing and diversifying the country's economy.

While there is no shortage of criticism, we should also recognize Saudi Arabia's efforts to promote sport and improve the future prospects of its people. Challenges remain, but the commitment to sport is a step in the right direction.

Ultimately, the issue of foreign sports investment is complex, but it should be approached with a spirit of openness and dialogue. The ultimate goal should be to find a balance between sports development, respect for human rights and financial transparency.

Saudi Arabia is committed to creating a more modern and understanding country, and sport can play a key role in achieving this goal. Instead of just criticizing, let's work together to make sport a catalyst for positive change in Saudi Arabia and around the world.

OMSAC Press & Media Department


bottom of page