Amid a series of investments that have upended professional sports in recent years, including golf and soccer, Saudi Arabia has signaled interest in taking a significant stake in the world’s richest cricket league. According to Bloomberg News, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s advisers have spoken with Indian government officials about moving the IPL into a holding company valued at as much as $30 billion.
Founded in 2008, the IPL has grown into one of the most valuable sporting events in the world thanks to a lucrative television rights deal and innovative gameplay that appeals to India’s cricket-loving population. The IPL has also attracted several corporate sponsors, including Saudi Aramco and the Saudi Tourism Authority. The IPL’s media rights through 2027 were auctioned last year for $6.2 billion.
The IPL’s expansion into international markets is another sign of the kingdom’s increasing financial clout and appetite for sports. The IPL has already established itself as a popular and lucrative tournament in the United States and worldwide, and its popularity has grown over the past decade.
As part of the crown prince’s Vision 2030 plan to shift the nation away from dependence on oil, the Saudis are aiming to promote a post-fuel economy that involves entertainment and tourism. Investing in major sporting events is a way for the country to promote itself, especially to Western consumers who may not be as familiar with the culture and history of the country.
Since the Vision 2030 announcement, Saudi Arabia has gone on a sporting investment spree. Soccer’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to leave Real Madrid for Al Hilal in December of 2022 was a landmark moment that got the world’s attention.
More recently, the kingdom hosted a series of boxing events. Its first-ever professional boxing match featured Callum Smith against George Groves in Jeddah on Sept. 28, with Smith winning via seventh-round KO. The fight was a central event of the Crown Jewel show. A month later, the country hosted social media star Jake Paul in a boxing match against Tommy Fury. Paul’s participation was controversial due to his controversial comments about gays and Muslims on YouTube and his support for apologists of the Islamic State.