Saudi Aramco announces sponsorship deal with world cricket body
Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco on Friday agreed to a sponsorship deal with cricket's world governing body, with the agreement becoming the kingdom's next big step into the global sports industry.
Under the deal, Saudi Aramco, the world's most valuable company and biggest national oil exporter, will sponsor all of the Dubai-based International Cricket Council's events until the end of 2023, including men's and women's T20 World Cups and next year's one-day World Cup in India.
In a statement from both Aramco and the ICC on Friday, the two parties said the agreement "reflects a shared focus on sustainability and innovation".
"This represents a significant addition to our network of global partnerships and we are pleased to join forces with the ICC," said Aramco global public affairs general manager, Talal al-Marri.
Aramco, which gained record profits this year as oil prices surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, will also sponsor the World Test Championship final in Britain and player-of-the-match awards at all major tournaments. No monetary value of the deal has yet been announced.
The partnership "will connect Aramco with a global cricket audience of more than one billion cricket fans", said a statement from Aramco.
The oil giant already has commercial deals with the Indian Premier League, Formula One, and women's golf.
The agreement is the latest endeavour by the kingdom to enter the world of global sports, a part of the government's efforts to wean its economy off its oil dependency, as well as to soften its image overseas.
The Saudi Public Investment Fund has also recently said it plans to spend more than $2bn on long-term sponsorships with football teams. The PIF has already made investment inroads, holding stakes in an array of leading companies including Boeing, Disney, CitiCorp, Facebook, BP, Marriott, Uber, Tesla, Nintendo and Total.
In terms of sports, the PIF has investments in Formula 1, heavyweight boxing, and last year made a landmark purchase of English Premier League football club Newcastle United.
It has also financed a professional golf tour named LIV, which has attracted top golfers including Phil Mickelson.
In addition to its investments, the country has opened itself up to major international sporting events, including boxing, wrestling and Formula 1 motor racing.
In August, Saudi Arabia submitted a bid to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games in Neom's futuristic Trojena sports city. If the bid is successful it would be the first country in the Middle East to host the games, which first took place in Japan in 1986.
Human rights groups have criticised the kingdom's expanding sports investment portfolio, as well as its hosting of major sporting events, as "sportswashing" by using them to gloss over its human rights crackdown on civil society.