Saudi Arabian gaming conglomerate Savvy Games Group has announced a partnership with Saudi football club Al-Hilal SC.
The deal will see Savvy Games Group help the football club improve its facilities and develop better youth training programmes. Al-Hilal will feature the Group’s logos across its branding and wider portfolio.
Savvy Games Group, which is wholly owned by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, has made a point of supporting esports and sporting efforts, particularly within the kingdom. The Saudi games industry was reportedly worth $1bn (~£762m) in 2021, according to research by market research firm Niko Partners.
Savvy Games Group’s latest acquisition was mobile games developer Scopely in a deal worth $4.9bn (~£3.9bn). The addition of the developer is an effort to further tighten the group, and therefore, the Kingdom’s grip on esports and gaming as a whole.
However, Saudi Arabia’s ambitions in esports have been met by widespread controversy. The country’s human rights record has led to criticism of its involvement in esports by stakeholders and community members, particularly around LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. Some industry analysts and commentators have also branded the country’s activities as ‘esportswashing’.
The news comes at a busy time for Al-Hilal. Reportedly, Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi turned down a lucrative offer to play for the club before signing with American side Inter Miami. The Saudi Arabian side has now reportedly turned its attention to Brazilian player Neymar.
In a press release, Brian Ward, CEO of Savvy Games Group, commented: “Whether on the pitch, or on a console, football has a unique ability to bring people together. Through it, we see people of all backgrounds, ages, nationalities, genders and abilities connect, play, learn, compete and triumph together.
“Al Hilal occupies a special place in the hearts of fans both in local and international arenas and we are honoured to support their ambitions both in the league and in the local community.”