England Test cricket captain Ben Stokes said Saudi Arabia’s billions will continue to transform sport, and his one could be next if players are lured by massive contracts.
After establishing the controversial LIV Golf tour and splashing out on superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar for its football clubs, the kingdom is setting its sights on cricket. The chairman of the Saudi cricket board, Prince Saud bin Mishal al-Saud, has said he wants to turn the nation into a “global cricketing destination.”
“You can’t compete with money, especially the money that Saudi Arabia is throwing around to certain people,” Stokes, among the top players in the world, said in an interview. “People can be at different points in their lives and different points in their careers, where other things matter more to them than other things.”
Cricket is the world’s most popular sport after football and is gaining traction in places like the US, where a new league with teams backed by some prominent billionaires just got started, and the United Arab Emirates is also shaking things up with its new competition. The Indian Premier League is currently the most lucrative, though, attracting players including Stokes. But that could change given the financial firepower of Saudi Arabia.
Stokes said the entire world of sport could be transformed in the coming years. “I think Saudi Arabia over the next five to ten years is going to interesting to see where they take sport,” he said. “Not just for cricket, football, rugby, golf, it will be interesting to see how the world of sport actually changes.”
When it comes to money, Stokes also has his eyes on investment. He was speaking with Bloomberg over Zoom last week after he was unveiled as one of the athletes backing a new £40 million ($51 million) venture capital firm, allowing sports stars to team up and invest in consumer-facing startups.