The Rise and Rise of Esports In The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Yalla Esports Joins SAFEIS

Published: Oct 7, 2022 - Last Updated: Oct 13, 2022

The Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic & Intellectual Sport (SAFEIS) has been a part of the International Esport Federation (IESF) since 2018. More recently, Yalla Esports has joined the SAFEIS, who are making massive investments in esports and its infrastructure. Saudi Arabia plans to make itself the hub of esports activity by 2030 and this might align with some of the IESF’s recent statement and its vision for esports.

IESF is the governing body of esports has been around since 2008 with 129 member nations. The body recently had its World Esports Summit in the Busan Esports Arena in Busan, South Korea.

yalla-esports-saudi-esports
Image Credits | Esports Insider

Olympic Esports Week

At the summit were IESF President Vlad Marinescu and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Head of Virtual Sports Vincent Pereira. Marinsecu was most there to welcome all the members who were present but Pereira had a bit more to offer when talking about the Olympic Esports week and its future.

“Olympic Esports Week in 2023, which we announced last week, will be a physical event that will include competition in virtual sports, hybrid games that will engage in physical activity, but also mobile games, console games and PC games. We’ll also have exhibitions to showcase the best of esports aligned with the Olympic values and the Olympic spirit,” said Pereira.

Saudi Arabia will be looking to host events of the kind soon. The Middle Eastern nation has already made a big mark. To make itself the hub, one of its subsidiary groups has invested $38 billion (SAR 142 billion) in esports and is chaired by none other than the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

He recently came out with the following statement:

“We are harnessing the untapped potential across the esports and games sector to diversify our economy, drive innovation in the sector and further scale the entertainment and esports competition offerings across the kingdom.”

Saudi’s Investment in Esports

There’s no reason to believe that Saudi Arabia will not follow on this. The nation’s sovereign wealth fund has put a lot of investment in other sports, creating its own Golf competition named LIV Golf and bought the popular Premier League club, Newcastle United.

It’s made inroads in the esports industry long before that and as long as it is an IESF member, there’s no reason why it can’t become the hub of esport activity within a decade. Saudi Arabia’s intentions have been questioned with many public critics and media outlets claiming that the nation is sportswashing or esportswashing — a way to clean an individual, group, corporation, or government’s image in the public sphere.

The esports industry still has a long way to go despite its constant rise in the last few years and the last thing the likes of IESF will want is to become associated with a nation that has been criticized heavily for its involvement in the conflict with Yemen and for persisting with some laws that are considered antiquated in many parts of the world. The IESF don’t seem to have revealed anything about Saudi Arabia’s goal for the industry, which almost suggests that they’re happy to ignore all the criticism and let things be.

Nikhil Kalro

Since: April 28, 2022

Nikhil has been writing on esports for several years after first covering competitive video gaming for ESPN. After its explosion into the mainstream, writing extensively on esports betting was the natural next step, including for major esports publications across the world.

See all articles from this author

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