Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has admitted that Saudi Arabia is using sportswashing to improve its international reputation, and that he doesn’t care about the accusations.
In an interview with Fox News, Bin Salman said that if sportswashing is going to increase Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 1%, then the country will continue doing it.
“I don’t care [about the term]. I have 1% growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5%,” Bin Salman said. “Call it what you want – we are going to get that 1.5%.”
Saudi Arabia has been accused of investing in sport and using high-profile events to improve its international reputation, despite its human rights record, which includes the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.
Human rights campaigners say that sport is being used by the Saudi government to distract from long-standing reputation issues.
But Saudi authorities reject those accusations and say that investment in sport is a key part of the ‘Vision 2030’ strategy.
The country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), has taken control of four of Saudi Arabia’s top clubs – Al-Ahli, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, and Al-Nassr – and has also invested in Newcastle United and LIV Golf.
The PIF is also controlled by Bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia will also host the Club World Cup in December, and is expected to bid to host the World Cup in 2030 or 2034.
Bin Salman’s admission that Saudi Arabia is using sportswashing is a reminder that the country is still trying to buy its way onto the world stage, despite its human rights record.