Middle East sports industry to grow faster than…

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Doha: A new PwC survey expects the Middle East sports industry to grow faster than anywhere else in the world. PwC Middle East’s Sports Survey, released yesterday, closely reviews the short and long-term consequences of a crisis unprecedented in the history of modern sport. The survey takes an in-depth look at the industry in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. It delves into the rapidly evolving sports ecosystem and highlights the opportunities, with the industry expecting to grow the fastest in our region compared to 50 countries across the world.

Strong government support and growing commercial maturity have undoubtedly contributed to raising the Middle East’s profile within sports in recent years. Examples of world-class sporting events include the annual Formula One Grands Prix in both Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and now in Jeddah, heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua’s bout in Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In stark contrast to the global market, for which respondents now expect the annual growth rate to slow to 3 percent over the next three to five years, respondents expect the Middle East to grow by 8.7% over the same period. This is mainly because Middle East governments have been active in efforts to diversify their economies with ambitious plans for the sports industry away from natural resources and to create social cohesion. 

In terms of the rebuilding process, some 63% of Middle East respondents expect the sports market overall to fully recover by 2022, which is far more optimistic than the global respondents of 42%. Their positive outlook is bolstered by the expectation that public expenditure in the sector will continue. However, the survey suggests the sports sector in the Middle East should prioritise its concrete initiatives to accelerate change and that the future of the sector has three key enablers in the years ahead.

Esports is a natural fit for the Middle East, where most of the population is young and internet-savvy, and the climate, especially in GCC countries, is often too hot for outdoor sports. Esports are video games played competitively, either one-on-one or between teams, and include both electronic versions of real-life sports such as the popular FIFA game, or action/ shooter games such as League of Legends and Call of Duty. 

On a more positive note, as the pandemic forced people to spend their time indoors; sectors like simulated sports and esports have seen golden opportunities. 

Rami Nazer, Global Advisory Government and Public Sector Leader at PwC comments: “At a time of unprecedented turbulence for the industry, our Sports Survey examines in depth both the short-term and long-term impacts of COVID-19. However, our survey highlights the opportunities as the sports industry is expected to grow faster in our region than anywhere else in the world over the next three to five years.”

Rami added: “The lockdown has maximised the value of sports through digital transformation to engage audiences and keep fans connected. Hence, this opened up opportunities to attract more audiences, business partners and revenue streams. In this increasingly digital landscape, sports leaders will need to prioritise their concrete initiatives to invest and innovate; to make the most of the changes and anticipated growth during this exciting period of transformation.”

Bassam Hajhamad, Country Senior Partner and Consulting Leader at PwC Middle East, said: “With the Fifa 2022 and the Asia Cup 2030 fast approaching, opportunities to accelerate digital transformation and innovate new methods of participation for fans within the industry are plenty. Although local respondents are confident with the sporting industry return to normal in 2022, the appetite for the E-sports market has grown as a result of the pandemic, making it wise for companies to take the step towards transforming their business and benefiting from a new mainstream audience.”

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