I never liked the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF). Not just because of their lame policy of erratically and irrationally sacking one coach after another, but also because the overall performance of our sports teams is simply not comparable to the talent pool we have in this country. I can’t think of any reason for this situation other than mismanagement of resources available at the disposal of this federation.
A long running saga of SAFF involves building a new football stadium in Jeddah. The current Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in the coastal city was built in 1980. I could not find any solid numbers regarding the stadium’s capacity, but Google thinks it’s somewhere between 25,000-35,000 spectators, which is considered medium by today’s standards. Jeddah is the home of two major football clubs in Saudi Arabia, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli, which means a large number of matches is played on the stadium every year. Add to that poor maintenance and lack of any renovation effort and you get an outdated, ugly mess.
Rumors about the new Jeddah stadium, expected to be named after
Crown Prince King Abdullah, have been circulating for, I don’t know, like the past ten years or so. SAFF claim that they have all plans ready for the new stadium but they are waiting for the Ministry of Finance to allocate the needed money for the project. SAFF have been blaming MOF for taking such a long time to approve the budget of the project and allocate the money.
However, if what Arreyadi sports newspaper has reported today is true, then I don’t blame MOF for putting the plans on hold. The newspaper cited sources at MOF saying the delay in approving the plans is based on their conviction that the estimated budget by SAFF is quite exaggerated. SAFF say they will need SR 10 billion to build the new stadium.
For the sake of comparison, the construction cost of the Emirates Stadium, one of Europe’s newest and most expensive football venues, is £430 million (~ SR 3 billion). Why SAFF are asking for this exorbitant amount of money when they actually need just a fraction of it remains a mystery, unless we get a chance to see their plans for the new stadium, which better include some architectural miracles and never-seen-before technologies to justify this huge budget.
I understand that Arreyadi is not very friendly toward SAFF for reasons beyond the scope of this blog post, but even if their report is not accurate, it nevertheless sheds the light on an important issue that has been long overlooked. Saudi Arabia has not built any new football stadiums since the opening of King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh in 1989.