Soccer privatization: A template for Saudi reform

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By James M. Dorsey Saudi Arabia has approved the privatization of state-owned sports clubs as part of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to streamline bureaucracy, curb public spending, diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy, and upgrade its autocracy. The effort to clean up the sports sector follows the rare admission earlier this year of … [Read more…]

Creating a legal precedent: Palestine considers suing Israel in international sports court

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By James M. Dorsey The Palestine Football Association (PFA), in a first testing of Palestine’s ability to fight its battle with Israel in international courts, plans to go to the world’s top court for sports in a bid to force its Israeli counterpart to view Israeli settlements on the West Bank as occupied territory rather … [Read more…]

Under pressure, Egyptian president promises change

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By James M. Dorsey Faced with a drop in popularity, intermittent protests against rising prices, and calls for a mass anti-government demonstration, Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, is seeking to appease the country’s youth, soccer fans and activists with promises of change. Mr. Al-Sisi’s efforts that include a one-time lifting of a ban on spectators … [Read more…]

Pushing the envelope: The World Cup and Arab revolts drive change

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By James M. Dorsey Pressured by human rights and trade union activists leveraging Qatar’s exposure as a World Cup host and influenced by subtle changes sparked by popular Arab revolts in recent years, young Qataris are pushing the envelope, broaching publicly hitherto taboo subjects like homosexuality, women’s dress codes, and citizenship. The pushing of the … [Read more…]

Threat of widespread protests justifies continued closure of Egyptian stadia

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By James M Dorsey Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s failed economic policies are prompting protests and widespread expressions of discontent. While the grumbling is unlikely to mushroom any time soon into a popular revolt similar to the one that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, it goes a long way to explain why Mr. Al-Sisi has … [Read more…]

A study in soft power strategy: Iceland 1, Qatar -1

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by James M Dorsey The soccer soft power contrast between Qatar and Iceland speaks volumes. A comparison of the strategies of both countries demonstrates that it takes more than money to leverage soccer to create political, geopolitical and economic opportunity. Money and world soccer body FIFA’s desire to take one of the world’s foremost sporting … [Read more…]