On June 21, 2021, the Saudi Ministry of Sport launched a new online licensing platform called NAFES, designed to encourage foreign investment and private partnerships in the country’s rapidly growing sports sector. The platform will encourage private investment and ownership in sports clubs, academies, and centers across 27 sports in the country, with the goal of increasing the number of sports clubs and academies, improving the competitiveness of Saudi athletes and clubs, supporting the growth of the sports market, and inviting more Saudi youth and women participation.
The launch of the platform builds off previous growth in the industry. Between 2015 and 2019, overall Saudi participation in weekly sporting activities grew 37 percent, including a notable 149 percent increase in women and girls taking part in exercise during the same period. Over four million Saudis signed up for home fitness classes during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Saudi Sports For All Federation’s “Baytak Nadeek” initiative.
The Kingdom’s support for growth in its sports market, one of the fastest growing in the world, is a key component of Vision 2030’s transformative agenda for diversification and privatization. In the last three years, the country’s Saudi sports sector grew 174 percent and its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 22 percent. In the last three years, the country has hosted 50 international events, including in international football (soccer), the PGA European Golf Tour, WWE, tennis, boxing, and motorsports.