Saudi Arabia has gotten pretty serious about developing its sports sector and industry in the past few months. According to a document recently made public by the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration unit, the kingdom's General Sports Authority (GSA) enlisted the services of the Los Angeles-based Churchill Ripley Group to help.
The official paper, which is available on the unit's website, reveals details about how high-level Saudi officials worked on diversifying the kingdom's sports sector. It also states that the LA-based consultant firm scheduled meetings for Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the current Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and first female head of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, with former NBA star Kobe Bryant. During the February meet-up, the royal is said to have discussed the "development of basketball in Saudi Arabia" with the athlete.
Her meetings didn't end with basketball as she met with the CEO of World Surf League, Sophie Goldschmidt, and discussed "the development of the sport of surfing in Saudi Arabia."
The royal also met with the CEO of experience design and production company Thinkwell and reportedly discussed the "development of a sports mall in Saudi Arabia."
The princess isn't the only top official who had scheduled meetings in the U.S., as the Churchill Ripley Group also organized meetings for the chairman of the country's General Sports Authority, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Saud.
According to the now published document, the prince met with the commissioner of the U.S. National Hockey League (NHL), the deputy commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB). He also had a sit-down with action sports collective Nitro Circus to discuss possible motocross and BMX events in Saudi Arabia, as well as a meeting with Madison Square Garden's President, Andrew Lustgarten, to learn about "stadium infrastructure."
Documents published on the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration unit's website only list calls and meetings that Churchill Ripley Group helped organize but does not allude to the outcome of these sit-downs or any follow-up meetings that may have taken place. The consultant firm's work with Saudi officials ended in July 31, 2018.
The kingdom continues to build its sports sector
Under Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, the sports sector has seen major improvements in recent years. The ambitious blueprint has also been centered on supporting Saudi women in sports.
In July, GSA announced that the country will be providing a $650-million-boost to the sector. In a statement on the matter, officials said the financial and governance strategy is designed to encourage sports clubs to diversify "practices and commit to the highest standards of governance."
In a bid to popularize sporting events, the country announced that it will begin offering electronic visas for foreign visitors who wish to attend sporting events last year. In December, the kingdom launched the visa service for visitors for the motoring event Formula E and saw 1,000 tourists from 80 countries land in the kingdom.