Saudi Arabia ‘majestic’ sport stadia plan


Winning tenders to be announced shortly in KSA Image: Ministry of Sport

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 program.

‘MEED’ stated that 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 2027 AFC Asian Cup will be the 19th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Asia organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The tournament involves 24 national teams after the expansion in 2019. It will be held in Saudi Arabia. The tournament is scheduled to be held in January 2027.

Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)-based the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is the governing body of association football, beach soccer and futsal in most countries/territories in Asia. It has 47 members.
‘MEED’ further stated that 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 the five existing football stadiums. These are:

  • Increasing the capacity of the 58,398-capacity King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh to 92,000 seats;
  • Expanding the seating capacity of Riyadh’s 22,500-capacity Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium to 45,000;
  • Increasing the capacity of the 26,000-capacity Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam to 30,000 seats;
  • An increase in seating capacity for the 11,000-capacity Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium in Al-Khair to 45,000; and
  • 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 program 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 is scheduled to be completed by December 2025. A total of 18 facilities will be ready in time for the 2026 AFC Women’s Cup.

The 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup will be the 21st edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the quadrennial international football tournament in Asia competed by the women’s national teams in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Australia and Saudi Arabia are in the box seat to host the 2026 Women’s Asian 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.

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)-based the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) is the football governing body of Saudi Arabia. Founded in 1956, its responsibilities include administration of club competitions and national teams. The founder of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation is Prince Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud.

Dammam (Saudi Arabia)-based the Al-Osais Contracting Company is a General Contractor involved in the construction of commercial buildings, residential complexes and industrial buildings, which include site development, infrastructure and utilities, all types of construction, structural steel works, marine works, plant infrastructural civil works, surveying and drafting services.

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 62,345-capacity King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on the outskirts of Jeddah.

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 – Australia – withdrew from the race.

FIFA had invited member-associations from the Asian Football Confederation and the Oceania Football Confederation to bid for the 2034 event by the end of October.

Auckland (New Zealand)-based the Oceania Football Confederation is one of the six continental confederations of international association football. The OFC has 13 members, 11 of which are full members and two which are associate members not affiliated with FIFA.

Saudi Arabia formally announced in early October that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation will lead its bid to host the tournament. Then on October 31st, which was the deadline for submitting bids, Football Australia issued a statement saying that the country will not bid for the 2034 tournament.

Transformative Effect

Experience from previous World Cups, including the most recent in Qatar in 2022, has shown how transformative the tournament can be for a country.

Commented Kourosh Kayvani, Partner at consultancy HKA, “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. 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.”

Football Investments

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, the 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 Public Investment Fund (PIF) completed the full acquisition of the Premier League football club Newcastle United F.C. (UK) from St James Holdings. The deal was estimated to be worth $415m.

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)-based the Public Investment Fund is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. It is among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world with total estimated assets of US$776 billion. It was created in 1971 for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

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