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Rock stars get ready to roll in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula

Time: November 08, 2018      

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Adventurers of all ages soon will be able to see the spectacular landscapes of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula region up close — by rock climbing. (SPA)

JEDDAH: Adventurers of all ages soon will be able to see the spectacular landscapes of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula region up close — by rock climbing.
The Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) announced plans to encourage the sport of rock climbing in the province by identifying and developing selected climbing paths, offering climbers of different ages and abilities the best facilities to help them discover the province.
Saudi and overseas climbers will be able to enjoy their sport in Al-Ula against a backdrop of some of the Kingdom’s most dramatic landscapes. The result will be an unforgettable experience in a unique historic and heritage site, with climbers joining the province’s pioneers of adventure and exploration.
With its historic treasures and spectacular landscapes, Al-Ula has the potential to become one of the most important tourist destinations in the world not only for cultural tourism, but also for sports, leisure and adventurous travel.
The RCU will develop the climbing routes through its partnership with the Saudi Climbing Federation (SCF). It seeks to put Al-Ula among the leading international tourist destinations and showcase the province’s adventure attractions, breathtaking natural scenery, and historic and heritage sites.
A group of Saudi climbers embarked on exploratory trips to different sites in Al-Ula from Oct.11-14 to identify climbing paths — the first time a large number of climbers from the SCF came together to enjoy rock and mountain climbing in the region.
The trips were led by SCF President Prince Bandar bin Khalid, who was accompanied by Yasmine Al-Qahtani, director-general of the federation.
The commission’s teams and the SCF will continue to identify climbing tracks, develop the necessary infrastructure and establish plans to ensure climbers’ safety. The partnership will also train Al-Ula residents as climbing guides to protect climbers’ safety as part of the efforts to promote social participation in the province. This will provide more job opportunities for the people of Al-Ula and support its local economy.
“Rock climbing is a sport that everyone can practice without any prior requirements,” Al-Qahtani said. “The tracks that the federation will develop will be suitable for climbers from different age groups. The sense of achievement you get when you reach the top cannot be described and the view from the top will be inspirational.”
The memorandum of understanding signed between the RCU and the SCF will provide a cooperative framework based on discussion, dialogue and communication to develop the sport in accordance with the best sustainable development practices.


This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudis clinch 3rd Asian title

Time: November 04, 2018   

2018 champions Saudi Arabia
MVP Turki Al-Ammar

JAKARTA — Saudi Arabia has finally gotten over the hump it faced while falling short in the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship by emerging the 2018 champion at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta Sunday.

The Saudis sealed their third title at this level after beating South Korea 2-1 in an entertaining final. The Saudis had earlier won the title in 1986 and 1992.

The Green Falcons had so much on the line during this tournament as they came so close to winning it all two years ago but were beaten by Japan in a penalty shootout.

It perfectly set-up an intense match-up, but the Green Falcons were simply the hungrier of the two sides. This was evident when Turki Al-Ammar, the MVP of the tournament, put the Green Falcons ahead only two minutes into the game as they signaled what was to come from Saudis.

Probably shell-shocked from the early goal, South Korea could not understand what hit them and before they knew it, they could not get a sniff of the ball as Saudis set the pace and were in complete control.

It would eventually pay-off after 20 minutes of the opener as Khalid Al-Ghannam produced one of the best shots of the tournament with a right-footed cannon that beat the defender and goalkeeper as it doubled Saudi’s lead.

The Green Falcons continued to apply pressure and could have been up more before the half as they were precise with their attacks and movements while the South Koreans looked a step slower.

In the second half, though, South Korea appeared to have new life and they eventually won a penalty that Cho Young Wook confidently converted. This gave the South Koreans new life as they pressed on to find the equalizer.

However, Saudis were able to successfully adjust to what South Korea had begun to throw at them. They still dominated possession and even created chances. Having one hand on the title two years ago and having it taken away at the last moment appeared to give the Green Falcons a different focus in this tournament which was ultimately manifested in the final.

They were ready for anything and appeared confident throughout 90 minutes. They are finally champions again after 26 years and have beaten two of the best teams along the way. They are at the top and deserve the accolades they have gotten to this point.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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WATCH: Highlights of an action-packed WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia

Time: November 03, 2018   

The Crown Jewel has been praised for the way in which it utilises sport to cut boundaries and connect the world. (Youtube)

Last night saw the WWE Crown Jewel come to Riyadh. The event is being praised for how it embodies the diplomatic power of sport, and highlighting the WWE’s support for Saudi Arabia’s social reforms.

The four-hour event from King Saud Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, featured a new universal champion being crowned, a superstar being named the “best in the world” at the end of the World Cup tournament and a nostalgic main event between DeGeneration X and the Brothers of Destruction.

The event has positive business implications for the WWE – which is known for using sports entertainment as a form of global diplomacy.

Connecting the world

The Crown Jewel has been praised for the way in which it utilises sport to cut boundaries and connect the world.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey emphasised the power of sporting diplomacy in an emotive manner.

The UFC Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian gave an anecdote of her experiences at the 2004 Olympics, where she trained alongside an Iraqi boxer, at the start of the Iraq War, stressing how sports helps form common grounds where cultures can be shared.

Expressing optimism about how the WWE in Saudi Arabia will enhance global unity: This is a great opportunity to have a bunch of kids in Saudi Arabia loving a part of American culture […] then you’ll see people from Saudi Arabia going into the WWE, and kids from America [admiring] those people. It’s a great way for us to share something and understand each-other.”

John Bradshaw Layfield approached the matter politically. The retired wrestler turned financial commentator told the Fox Business Network about the need to help Saudi Arabia promote change, citing Cuba as an example of a country that was “impoverished” because it was isolated, before referencing the WWE’s relevant success in this pursuit: “WWE went to Abu Dhabi, did the first women’s match that had ever happened in the Middle-East, the crowd was chanting in English: ‘this is change’”.

Notable absences

John Cena and Daniel Bryan are not set to attend the Riyadh event.

In the case of Bryan, his planned title match against AJ Styles was brought forward to Tuesday’s episode of Smackdown. Rumors suggested that Bryan’s burial (a humiliating loss that relegates a wrestler’s status in the eyes of the fans) was punishment for his Crown Jewel bailout.

However, WWE insider Bryan Alvarez said that Bryan’s submission to Styles was the planned finish for Crown Jewel. This means that the WWE Creative Team had already intended to write Bryan out of the main events.

In the case of John Cena, his ambitions to transition into Hollywood are believed to be a motivation. Nonetheless, he has received backlash for his absence. Some fans have labelled Cena a hypocrite, citing a previous feud with The Rock where Cena accused The Rock of betraying the WWE in favour of Hollywood. When TMZ asked his (professional) rival Randy Orton was asked about Cena’s absence, he simply responded: “does he still wrestle?”

Former WWE Champion Mark Henry cited ethical grounds for not supporting Cena’s action, telling TMZ: “I am a firm believer in not leaving people out to dry […] I didn’t want to screw [the fans] over.”


The Crown Jewel has positive political and business implications for the WWE. In the short-term – WWE Q3 investor reports indicate that the increase of media revenues by 9% compensated for income from live events falling fell from $31.6m to $26.7m. This momentum is supported by enhancing the WWE’s international exposure, via events such as the Crown Jewel.

In the long-term, the WWE using the Crown Jewel as a form of diplomacy, to offer an olive branch to Saudi Arabia and the Middle-East – is consistent with the company’s Corporate Social Responsibilities – which include the raising awareness of breast cancer and campaigning to challenge bullying.

The WWE has previously gained positive publicity for its social work – including visiting the scene of 9/11, hosting a show just 2 days later in Texas, as well as taking their shows to Iraq and Afghanistan. In this regard, history may ultimately look back positively on the WWE’s decision to support Saudi Arabia, in the process of social changes.


This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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The show goes on: WWE Crown Jewel event to be held as scheduled

Time: November 31, 2018   

“Our Saudi fans are really excited to see us.” Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre WWE champions. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, the WWE champions participating in the mega event, said they had been overwhelmed by the red- carpet welcome in the Saudi capital

RIYADH: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) returns to Saudi Arabia for the second time this year with the Crown Jewel event in Riyadh on Friday.

The Greatest Royal Rumble show hosted by the Red Sea city of Jeddah in April was  the first televised WWE event in the region and a huge success, with 60,000 fans cheering their heroes at the King Abdullah Stadium.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on Wednesday ahead of the championship, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, the WWE champions participating in the mega event, said they had been overwhelmed by the red- carpet welcome in the Saudi capital and expressed their delight at meeting their fans in Riyadh.

Ziggler said: “The fans are really excited to see us, we have a big tournament and the World Cup featuring some of the biggest names in the game. I am looking forward to trying to be the best in the world.”

On what differentiates Saudi fans from other fans, he said: “A lot of times around the world we go places, three, four, five times a year; here we know we have one chance every year to step up our game and make the show fantastic.”

On the return of  legendary American professional wrestler Shawn Michaels after being absent from the ring for eight years, Ziggler said: “It’s cool and fantastic. He is coming out of retirement and it is very special to have him in the ring.”

Michaels has been called the greatest  performer in the wrestling ring by a number of his peers and also by fans.

On visiting the Kingdom for the event Ziggler said: “The people here have been very accommodating, very nice to us. We did some sightseeing and got out to see the people, the city landmarks, and then we are ready for the big show on Friday.

“In Riyadh, the show is going to be awesome. We have been looking forward to it for a long time — the fact that we have the World Cup tournament “where some superstars are going to fight three different matches in one night to be crowned the best in the world.”

McIntire said that he appreciated the warm welcome they had received: “This is my first time here; people are really excited to see us in the ring. I am looking forward to it.”

McIntire is also delited  to see Michaels’ return. “It is really good to see him come back. I was 22 or 23 when he retired, to see him come back to the ring is very exciting, he is a great performer of all time.”

This WWE second global pay-per-view event in Riyadh has proved to be popular with Saudi fans even before the start of the event, with tickets sold out in a few hours.

One of the marquee matches for the event is a first-time encounter as two of the most powerful duos are set to battle when the iconic Brothers of Destruction square off against the rebel duo of D-Generation X.

Although all four competitors have had numerous battles in the past, this is the first time that the two-tag team forces will clash.

Another match on the cards that has garnered a lot of attention is the showdown for the vacant Universal championship, pitting the winner of the 2018 Men’s Money in the Bank, Braun Strowman, against the former longest-reigning champion of the modern era and former UFC heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar.

The match was set to be a triple-threat match but champion Roman Reigns has been forced into retirement due to health issues with leukemia.

The card is also set to have a Best in the World tournament featuring Seth Rollins, the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, the Charismatic Enigma Jeff Hardy, the Master of the 619 and returning legendary Luchador Rey Mysterio, the Miz, Dolph Ziggler, the Viper Randy Orton and last-minute entry Bobby Lashley, who will be taking John Cena’s place in the tournament.

The WWE Crown Jewel event will take place this Friday evening at the King Saud University Stadium.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Mawhiba launches basic training courses in Olympiad

Time: October 31, 2018      

The King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Talent and Creativity (Mawhiba ), in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, inaugurated the first training course in Science Olympiad in Mathematics, Physics, Science, Chemistry and Biology, on Monday.

The program is held annually in the field and in each year students are nominated for training courses for international participation

The basic courses for Olympiad training will be held in several cities in the Kingdom, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Ahsa, Madinah, Dammam , Yanbu, Jubail and Makkah.

The courses are scheduled to run through December 6, providing 139 basic courses.

The basic courses will be held in cooperation with the Education Department of Makkah, the Royal Commission in Jubail and Yanbu, the schools of Dar Al-Zikraalah in Jeddah and the Al-Ruwad Model House for Girls in Jeddah, Al-Anjal Boys and Girls Schools in Al-Ahsa, Al-Husan Model Schools for Boys and Girls, Dammam), and the schools of Tahdhib in the Eastern Province, schools and lighthouses in Sharqiyah, Riyadh, Medina and Jeddah.

The King Abdul Aziz and his Companions Foundation for the Gifted and Creativity (KACFGC), or “Mawhiba,” has organized the program in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.


This article was first published in AlRiyadh Daily

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Princess Reema: Investment will take Saudi eSports to next level

Time: October 25, 2018   

Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud speaks during the FII conference in Riyadh on Wednesday. (AFP)
  • Given Saudi Arabia’s large youth population, itis believed that pumping more money into this sector could give a boost to both young people and the national economy
  • An eSports federation — known formally as the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports — was launched last year

RIYADH: Greater investment in eSports would boost the Saudi economy and help young gamers better compete in the global — if virtual — arena, one of the Kingdom’s top sporting officials has said.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, of the General Sport Authority, told the Future Investment Initiative that the Saudi gaming sector is “ripe for investment” — and that extra funds could help take it to the next level.

An eSports federation — known formally as the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports — was launched last year.

Given Saudi Arabia’s large youth population, pumping more money into this sector — by, for instance, opening a gaming college or running gaming tournaments — could give a boost to both young people and the national economy, Princess Reema said.

“We truly believe that this is a sector that we can develop and grow, and is ripe for investment,” she said.

Princess Reema pointed to South Korea as a country with a healthy eSport industry.

“In South Korea, the gaming industry is probably around a $4 billion addition to the GDP … imagine if we were able
to do that here in Saudi Arabia?” she said.

“What does that look like? That looks like a gaming college or a university, that looks like gaming-training programs; investments in infrastructure and buildings that allow for these young people to not only participate in the game, but also educate others to be physically active.”

The official acknowledged that some people would need to be convinced that video gaming was actually a sport — adding that she encourages eSports to be recognized by the Olympics.

But Princess Reema said that another factor was that young people could be encouraged to do more physical activity — because it can help them “up their gaming level” in the virtual field.

In August, Saudi teenager Mosaad Aldossary picked up a $250,000 prize when he won the global FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final.

More than 20 million gamers vied for a spot in the annual eWorld Cup, with just 32 making it to the finals. Competitors play the FIFA 18 football video game.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ABB Formula E coming to Saudi Arabia

Time: October 17, 2018   

RIYADH — In what considered to be the first appearance of the electric car racing series in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is scheduled to host the opening round of The ABB FIA Formula E Championship. ABB Formula E is set to make its debut in Ad Diriyah, Riyadh this December for the very first time as part of a 10-year agreement with the General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabian Motor Federation.

The Vice Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, described Formula E as “the motorsport of the future”, and having Saudi Arabia hosting the championship is “an exciting opportunity as the race aligns perfectly with the country’s 2030 vision.”

ABB FIA Formula E championship is the world’s first fully electric street racing series holding its races in the middle of the world’s capital cities. Vehicles are entirely battery-powered with a top speed of 225km/h. The fifth season, starting in Riyadh, will feature new cities, new rules, and most importantly, new teams, like BMW and Nissan, driving in brand new Generation 2 cars.

Formula E partnered with ABB, which considered to be a global leader in the deployment of sustainable energy and e-mobility solutions. Through this partnership, Both Formula E and ABB can further push the boundaries of e-mobility and contribute to a more sustainable solutions that explores the role of using clean sources of energy, which, consequently, allows adapting to the unforeseen future changes while optimizing the use of existing technology and supporting future innovations. This results in minimizing environmental impacts, providing a green and sustainable atmosphere to users and their environment.

Bringing Formula E to Saudi Arabia is a big milestone in achieving the country’s Vision 2030 goals. — SG

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Arabia said to target Man Utd for investment

Time: October 16, 2018  

Saudi Arabia said to target Man Utd for investment
Manchester United, which boasts stars such as Paul Pogba, is reportedly a target for investment by Saudi Arabia.
By Sam Bridge

Manchester United, one of the world’s richest football clubs, is reportedly a target for investment by Saudi Arabia.

Media reports in the UK say the Gulf kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wants to follow in footsteps of the Abu Dhabi-based owners of Manchester City.

Reports claimed that the crown prince is set to meet with the Glazer family to discuss the matter but it is thought that even if United’s owners were willing to consider selling, it would cost the Saudis more than £3 billion.

Buying into United would be a massive statement by Saudi Arabia but the Glazers’ attitude to selling all or part of the club they have owned since 2005 is unclear, reports added.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly wanting to emulate the success of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour who bought Manchester City 10 years ago.

Over the past decade, Mansour has bankrolled a spending spree of around £1.2 billion that ended Manchester United’s reign as the dominant team in town, while turning City into a domestic giant with three Premier League titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup in their trophy cabinet since the takeover

This article was first published in Arabian Business

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Saudi boxing fans real winners in historic Jeddah fight night

Time: September 30, 2018 

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The headlining Smith vs. Groves bout was a brilliant finale to a night of excellent boxing. Fighters from around the globe put on a spectacle that wowed the Saudi crowd and put Jeddah on the boxing map. (Action Images via Reuters)
  • Fans in the stands, boxers in the ring, heroes from the past all agree — this was one knock-out event
  • The event was hailed as a resounding success by fighters past and present on a memorable sporting night

JEDDAH: One fighter took home $10 million and the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy, the other took home $5 million — but the real winners on a historic night in Jeddah were the Saudi boxing fans.

Thousands of them packed the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Friday to watch Callum Smith, from Liverpool, beat Londoner George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final to become the new WBA super-middleweight champion.

The first professionally sanctioned fight night in Saudi history came with a sense of wonder and excitement; an aura of mystique that was enhanced  by subtleties such as the hazy mist emitted from the swinging light projectors surrounding the ring.

The atmosphere and energy generated by the crowd was infectious.  The constant stomping of feet caused the floor to rumble, a vent for fans eager to release the excitement within. The combination of crowd cheers, jeers, and whistles, along with constant camera flashes and blaring music, created a sort of twilight zone of sensory overload. Thousands of smartphones among the crowd, their flashlights turned on, illuminated the arena like fireflies on a summer night.

Noticing the youthful make-up of the crowd, organizers Comos and the GSA hope the event will be a launching pad for the sport in the Kingdom. (AFP)

“This experience was amazing,” said Ahmed Saif, a lawyer from Jeddah. “Having the opportunity to witness live boxing makes us so happy. Tonight had everything. Decisions and knockouts. Both Saudi fighters also won their fights so we are all very proud of them.”

Before, Saif would always be looking elsewhere on extended weekends to have fun and disconnect from work. “We used to travel for these kinds of events and the expenses for travel and logistics were always felt. Now the entertainment is coming to us, the ticket prices are affordable as well, so we are very happy and just thankful to both the GSA and GEA (General Sport Authority and General Entertainment Authority) for continuing to bring these fun and exciting events to Saudi Arabia.”

The event was hailed as a resounding success by fighters past and present on a memorable sporting night. The crowd appeared to side with Smith during the fight and the new champion was full of praise for his hosts.

“There were a lot of questions when it was announced, but Jeddah has been brilliant,” he said. “The people we’ve met, the hotel — they can’t do enough for me. I’ve been here nearly a week and they’ve made it as comfortable as possible.

“I can’t praise the tournament enough. The atmosphere was just as good as any I’ve boxed in front of. I got a great reception, as did George, and I want to thank the people of Saudi Arabia for that.”

Smith’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has put on boxing shows all over the world and was impressed by Saudi Arabia’s maiden offering, applauding the vision of organisers.

He said: “When you come in here and see the arena and the atmosphere and the way the sport has been welcomed to this region, it makes you realise that boxing is a global sport.

“It’s tough to build from a blank canvas in terms of commission, infrastructure, anti-doping, paramedics. We didn’t know what to expect, so congratulations for trying to push the boundaries.”

For the two local Saudi fighters on the card, Zuhayr Al-Qahtani and Abdulfatah Julaidan, it was the opportunity of a lifetime in Jeddah. A partisan home support waved flags and made their voices heard, helped by the fact both men delivered convincing points victories.

“I just wanted to have fun and show the crowd what I can do,” said Al-Qahtani, who continued the unbeaten start to his professional career. “I loved it every second of it.

“It was everything I hoped for and more. I have struggled all my life, performing all over the world and getting booed — today I felt proud to be King of the Ring in Saudi Arabia.

“Wembley has had its time. The 02 has had its time. Las Vegas has had its time. Now it’s our time; it’s Saudi time.”

Callum Smith with his trophy. (AFP)

Julaidan, who won his second pro fight just two weeks after his first, added: “It is an amazing feeling — a first victory in my country is something I can’t describe but we did it.

“This was a victory for Saudi Arabia as much as for me and it is a dream come true. To have kids waiting there for me, asking for my autograph — this is a night I will never forget.”

The youthful make-up of the crowd will have been encouraging to organisers Comos and the GSA, who hope the event will be a launching pad for the sport in the Kingdom.

And the appetite for boxing did not go unnoticed by legendary British fighter Prince Naseem Hamed.

The former three-weight champion, who was born to Yemeni parents, commands great respect in the region thanks to his Arab roots.

He addressed the crowd in Arabic and English, saying: “I feel honoured to be in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is a breakthrough with our first major fight in Jeddah. It’s great to be a part of it — there were some good fights, and a great atmosphere.

“It would have been amazing to fight here. It wasn’t written for me but I’m here today to witness history, and I am proud.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Al-Sulami welcomes guests to AIPS ASIA Congress

Time: September 20, 2018 


JEDDAH — The executive head of the Saudi Sports Media Federation Dr. Raja Allah Al-Sulami welcomed the guests of the AIPS ASIA Congress to the Kingdom to attend this international event.

The Saudi government supports and empowers the sports sector in the Kingdom and His Excellency the consultant, Turki Al-Shaikh, has already focused on reviving the Saudi and Asian sports media.

Federation member Dr. Turki Al-Awad said the federation has been trying to have an international impact since its first meeting.

“We want to give the Saudi media the status it deserves. Hosting the congress meetings in Jeddah is a great way to show our presence and proactiveness in the field of sports reporting. We are honored and pleased to host our colleagues and sports reporters from all over Asia and from other continents as well,” said Al-Awad.

He added that the congress meeting will host the executive head of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), the executive head of the European Sports Press Union, the executive head of the American Sports Press Union and the executive head of the African Sports Press Union will all be attending the congress meetings held in Jeddah.

The executive head of Sports Media Adel Al-Zahrani said Jeddah will be an important historical turning point where important discussion will take place and decisions will be made.

“The meetings will host the elite journalists and sports reporters from all over the world as well regional and international executives in the sports media sphere. The Kingdom is taking strong strides in sports and is becoming an important voice in the arena,” said Al-Zahrani.

He added sports reporting is joining hands to promote ethical reporting and to stand together against unethical and wrongful practices in the field.

Federation member Jabr Al-Shaiqi said establishing the federation is a strong sign of the Kingdom’s dedication and appreciation to sports.

“Saudi sport reporters are nowadays a credible and authentic voice in sports media. Our input is impactful and our sports media is a very positive one,” said Al-Shaiqi.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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