They’re behind a massive golf merger, they control Newcastle United and they’re bringing some of the biggest footballers in the world to the Middle East. If you’re not sure what Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is all about, here’s a quick guide.
The PIF is a big pot of money – £514bn to be exact
It was created in 1971 so the government of Saudi Arabia could invest in things – basically a huge savings account for the country. The reason there’s so much cash in it is because of the massive amounts of money Saudi Arabia has made through selling oil.
It’s been used to bring big name footballers to Saudi Arabia
The PIF recently announced it’s taking over four clubs in the Saudi League. Legendary striker Cristiano Ronaldo already plays there and Karim Benzema has also just moved. The Saudi league doesn’t have the financial fair play rules that govern European football so they can spend as much as they want on players and wages.
They have radically changed professional golf
PIF money was used last year to launch LIV Golf – a new tournament that upset the organisers of golf’s most well-known series, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. After months of legal action and verbal attacks, the other leagues announced they’d joined forces with LIV to unite the sport.
It’s also in charge of Newcastle United
The PIF spends a lot of money abroad. According to reports, more than 60% of the funds go directly into supporting activities in Saudi Arabia. The rest of the money is invested elsewhere, such as the £300m takeover of Premier League club Newcastle United, which gave the fund control of the club.
Not everyone is impressed by the big sporting purchases
Saudi Arabia has been accused of numerous human rights violations and has strict laws restricting what women can do. Like other Middle East states it’s been heavily criticised for its anti-LGBT laws – homosexuality is punishable by death. They’ve been accused of investing millions into sport across the world to change public perception of the country – known as sportswashing. Golf star Rory McIlroy said he’s got “mixed emotions” about the golf merger.
The fund is controlled by Saudi Arabia’s prince
Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud was appointed Crown Prince of the country in 2017 – and in 2018 he was ranked as the eighth most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine. He’s a controversial figure – the United States accused him of approving the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which Bin Salman has denied.
Some people think the state wants to host the World Cup
The official response from Saudi Arabia as to why they’re investing in sport now is that they want to encourage more people who live there to take it up. But other reports suggest it’s to help firm up a bid to host a men’s FIFA World Cup in the future.
Source : BBC