Real-Qiddiya talks inches towards deal



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Qiddiya and Real Madrid Partnership Image: Real Madrid & Qiddiya

Talks are reportedly at an advanced stage between Spanish LaLiga club Real Madrid (Spain) and Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya sports and entertainment project concerning a €150m ($182m) partnership that would include main sponsorship rights to Real’s women’s team – Real Madrid Femenino.

thetimes.co.uk sources revealed that leaked documents appear to point out that two separate documents detailing a proposed partnership between the club and Qiddiya, a £5.7 billion project being built close to Riyadh, intended to become Saudi Arabia’s “capital of sports and entertainment”.

thetimes.co.uk sources added that the club and the €6.5bn Saudi State-owned tourism project have reached a memorandum of understanding on a deal.

Real Madrid is a Spanish football club from Madrid, Spain. It was started in 1902 and competes in LaLiga (the Spanish top league).

Real Madrid Femenino is a Spanish women’s football club in Madrid. Founded as the independent Club Deportivo Tacón in 2014, the club later underwent a merger and acquisition process with Real Madrid CF beginning in 2019 and was officially rebranded as Real Madrid’s women’s football section in 2020.

Qiddiya is an entertainment megaproject to be established in Riyadh. Construction started in the beginning of 2019. The project is one of the tourism megaprojects to be established in Saudi Arabia in the framework of the Saudi Vision 2030 which aims to diversify the income resources of the country.

sportbusiness.com sources stated that the partnership would cover 10 years and see women players traveling to Saudi Arabia, one of the documents said, “to motivate girls to play sports” as part of the agreement.

Saudi Arabia’s first women’s football league kicked off in November 2020 after being delayed due to the COVID-19 scourge.

Construction started on the Qiddiya project near the Saudi capital of Riyadh at the start of 2019 with an opening after the first phase of development targeted for early 2023.

sportbusiness.com sources added that the project is part of Saudi initiative to attract international visitors to the Kingdom and drive economic diversification in the oil-rich State. However, critics of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record argue any tie-up with Real Madrid is primarily a means to “sportswash” the country’s international reputation which has been significantly damaged by the country’s poor human rights record.

Sports and International Affairs Expert, Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of Eurasian Sport at the Emlyon Business School in Shanghai, posted on social media that the proposed partnership is the result of “a seemingly inevitable convergence of interests”.

He tweeted, “Real Madrid positions itself alongside a country spending billions of dollars on sport. Qiddiya – sport and entertainment giga-city – [is] intended to be [the] biggest development of its kind in the world. Saudi Arabia generates visibility for both Qiddiya and its promotion of women’s football, as well as the legitimacy of being associated with world’s biggest club.”

Professor Chadwick said Real Madrid has already forged links with the country as the only football presence at the Winter Wonderland attraction in Riyadh in 2019-20 and as winners of the Spanish Super Cup, staged in Saudi Arabia, in January 2020.

He also stated that any further associations between Real Madrid and Saudi Arabia will “reignite political divisions in Spanish football” with LaLiga President Javier Tebas, a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia’s “sportswashing” involvement in sport.

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