The influence of the sports world in the Middle East, driven by ‘oil money’, is growing out of control.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) held the 33rd AFC General Assembly in Manama, Bahrain on the 1st and announced the results of the FIFA Council member elections. In this election, Chung Mong-gyu, president of the Korea Football 스포츠토토 Association (KFA), received only 19 out of 45 valid votes from the 46 member states of the AFC.
On the other hand, Sheikh Ahmad Khalifa Al Thani (Qatar) received the most votes, 40, and Yasser Almisehal (Saudi Arabia) and others were selected as members of the Asian Council in the top five. In the executive committee elections, including the AFC president and vice-president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Khalifa (Bahrain), who was the sole candidate for the presidency, succeeded in re-election without voting.
The AFC then announced at the General Assembly that Saudi Arabia had been selected as the host of the 2027 Men’s Asian Cup. Initially, the 2027 Asian Cup announced plans to host India, Iran, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, but withdrew, and Saudi Arabia, the sole candidate, was dropped as the host.
As a result, the 2027 tournament will be held in Saudi Arabia following the 2019 United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 2023 Qatar, making the Asian Cup three consecutive Asian Cups held in West Asia. The 2023 tournament was scheduled to be held in China, but the venue was changed to Qatar as China returned its lien for quarantine reasons. In the bid for the 2023 Games, Korea jumped in but was pushed back by Qatar.
In recent years, the influence of sports in the Middle East has been growing. Following the hosting of the AFC Asian Cup three times in a row, the Middle East is making aggressive investments in the sports field with enormous ‘oil money’ at the forefront.
Saudi Arabia drew the attention of soccer fans around the world by acquiring English Premier League club Newcastle United last year with the financial power of the sovereign wealth fund and recruiting them in large numbers. In December of last year, Al Nasr, a professional football club in Saudi Arabia, surprised the world once again by signing Cristiano Ronaldo.
Prior to this, Saudi Arabia has already invested a huge amount of money to launch the LIV tournament, attracting many PGA professional golfers. In 2021, it also hosted the Formula One (F1) car racing competition.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, which hosted the first ever winter World Cup in December last year, and the United Arab Emirates, where Sheikh Mansour serves as Deputy Prime Minister, who made Manchester City the strongest team in the Premier League immediately after taking over, are also increasing their influence through huge investments in the sports field.
Some criticize that investments by Middle Eastern countries are trying to launder the issues of hereditary succession and human rights oppression that do not fit the times through ‘sports washing’. However, the momentum in the Middle East, which is diversifying its business through omnidirectional investments in preparation for oil depletion, is expected to remain unabated for the time being.