Saudi Arabia to launch Esports World Cup in 2024

Featured image credit: Sean Do on Unsplash

Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, has today (Monday) announced the launch of the Esports World Cup, which will take place annually in Riyadh from next summer.

The event is being pitched as the largest global tournament of its kind and is designed to further enhance Saudi Arabia’s position as a hub for international esports and sports competitions.

The Esports World Cup Foundation, a non-profit organisation, has also been launched with the aim of driving collaboration between esports stakeholders and enhancing the sector’s sustainability.

Specific details of the tournament have not been confirmed but it is set to include the “most popular games in the world” across all genres and feature the largest prize pool in esports history. A cross-game competition format will be introduced to reward and incentivise clubs.

More details of the event are set to be announced in early 2024. Today’s announcement was made during The New Global Sport Conference, which is currently taking place in Riyadh.

Bin Salman said: “The Esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry.

“The competition will enhance our progress towards realising the Vision 2030 objectives of diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, creating new jobs in various industries, and providing world-class entertainment for citizens, residents, and visitors alike.”

The tournament will look to accelerate the development of Saudi Arabia’s National Gaming and Esports Strategy, which seeks to increase the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP by more than SA50bn (£10.9bn/€12.5bn/$13.3bn) by 2030 and create 39,000 new job opportunities.

Last month, Bin Salman dismissed claims that Saudi Arabia’s vast investment in sports events and properties represents ‘sportswashing’, stating that he “doesn’t care” about this label so long as it continues to boost GDP.

Speaking to Fox News in his first interview given fully in English, Bin Salman moved to address criticism that Saudi Arabia’s investment represents a strategy to deflect attention from the Kingdom’s human rights record.

The Kingdom’s investment in sports properties is chiefly represented through its ownership of English Premier League football club Newcastle United and its backing of LIV Golf. In June, it was announced that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) would merge their commercial operations under common ownership, a pact that ended all pending litigation related to the breakaway LIV Golf tour.

Saudi Arabia recently added to its sports events portfolio after Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City was announced as the host venue for tennis’ Next Gen ATP Finals for the next five years.

The country is also in the box seat to secure hosting rights for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, which would add to a football events portfolio that already includes the 2027 Asian Cup, the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup and the Supercoppa Italiana.